Bots Soon to High-Card Humans
FeedJournal Sample Issue
The Modern Emigrant
Why FeedJournal? (or why the information age matters)
Made In Express Contest
Product: Swedish Keyboard
Product: Window Control
Sunday, January 28, 2007
This Blog Has Moved
The blog has moved - please update your bookmarks. See end of post for more details.
After blogging for almost a year using Thingamablog, I have decided to switch blog platforms.
While Thingamablog is a great idea in theory it doesn't work out that well in practice - at least not for me. The basic idea of Thingamablog is that there is no server software required - all HTML is generated on the client and then uploaded to the web directory of your choice using FTP. I carried around my blog database on a flash drive in my pocket at all times and could blog both from home and my office.
The problem was that the FTP upload became slower and slower as the database grew in size. Because I run the database from my removable drive I once did the mistake of removing it too early from the computer with a corrupted database as result. Of course there were no backups.
I decided to do away with my web page as well and merge the information into the blog instead. Of course I still want to be able to blog from any location I want, and avoid ads. And get it for free.
Blogger.com is my new blog home - setting up and migrating the data was a very simple procedure. Of course a hosted solution doesn't offer the same customization benefits as a WordPress installation on your own server but it's enough for the purposes of this blog. I decided on blogger.com over WordPress's hosted solution because of the greater customization offered in designing the HTML.
Please update your bookmarks and subscribed RSS feeds:
New blog URL: http://jonasmartinsson.blogspot.com
RSS Post Feed: http://jonasmartinsson.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Book Review: "America: A Love Story"
Like many non-Americans I have a strange attraction to the United States. Having neither the means nor the time to explore this vast continent on my own I am looking for substitutes to get intimately familiar with the different corners of America. This is what I was hoping to find in Torre B Isaksen's "America: A Love Story".
The author, Mr. Isaksen, a Norwegian-born sea captain, spent half a year traveling from Alaska to Florida, using his car. His travels took him through many states and he writes about the people and places he saw. Quite a few exciting events happened to him during the trip, but that is not what makes this book interesting. Where Mr. Isaksen really shines is in his narrative of all the original people he met on his travels, sometimes old friends, but most of the time just random encounters on his journey.
As the book title hints, Mr. Isaksen's unrelenting love for the US is ever-present throughout the pages, and often this is too much for the reader to swallow. While he keeps referring back to the vast amount of places he visited during his travels by sea, he always uses this information to point out the superiority of the American way, regardless of subject. His story often strays off on a tangent, and more often than not, this leads to the Vietnam war, which a significant number of fragments in the book is dedicated to.
As a travelogue throughout the US, the book contains a fair amount of memorable episodes and you get a feeling for the place and the people living there. However, the constant backtracking to Vietnam, the many romantic encounters on the road, and a few grammatical and spelling errors reduce the enjoyment from what could have been a great read. Despite these issues I still enjoyed the book and felt that I got a deeper and more intimate understanding of the US' geography and people without actually being there.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Emails to the FeedJournal Domain
I just had a large backlog of e-mails delivered to me. They were all addressed to any of the e-mail addresses in my feedjournal.com domain. There were e-mails all the way back from the end of August until today. Of course, this is an extremely costly thing to have happen to an µ-ISV and especially at a time around a product launch.
I have been speaking to both my domain name registrar and my hosting provider and problem is now solved once and for all. You should all feel free to safely use the feedjournal.com addresses for contacting me in the future.
I am terribly sorry for everyone who tried to contact me during this time (31st Aug - today) and never received a reply. I am now starting to process the e-mail backlog and reply to each and everyone of you.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
FeedJournal v2.0 is Available
After a few sabbatical months in the aftermath of the Made In Express Contest, it is finally time for FeedJournal v2.0 to see the light of day. Functionality-wise there are no major differences between v1.0 and v2.0 - all the changes have occurred behind the scenes. The database is now using on a much leaner engine, considerably speeding up the download size and installation process. On top of this, the new version is going shareware, with a 30-day trial version without any limitations. The price for a single computer license is $39.95, but during 2006 there is an introductory offer of $29.95.
Monday, November 13, 2006
I have been knocking my head bloody against v2.0 of hack.net for over half a year now. This bugger seems even more diabolic than the first version of the puzzle, which wasn't solved until a few years after its initial publication. Every time I think I have come up with some clever approach how to solve the first stage, but no significant breakthrough so far. I am pretty sure that those curly brackets are a part of getting to the next step... How about a subtle hint, Ryan?
Anyone else out there working on it?
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Moving Incoming Newsletters and Alerts to RSS
Spam and inbox overload is one of the unavoidable pains of an active online life, right? Well, not necessarily so. There are a few proven techniques for how to get rid of unwanted e-mail from your inbox. One of them is to be very restrictive about giving out your personal e-mail address, another involves investing in advanced anti-spam filters. But how do you go about signing up for newsletters and other information from sites that you are not trusting?
I am happy with my current setup for solving these problems and thought that I would share it with you.
The service I am using is free and called MailBucket. It is simply an email address with the suffix "@mailbucket.org" that is free for you to claim. Let's say you want to use the e-mail address email@example.com - you simply type this address in the e-mail field when subscribing to for example a newsletter. Then add a subscription in your favorite RSS reader to http://www.mailbucket.org/joe.xml and read the incoming messages from there. Of course, this setup does not allow you to easily reply to messages but typically this is not anything you will do when subscribed to a newsletter. If you eventually decide that you don't want to receive their messages any longer you simply delete the feed from your RSS reader. To find a unique e-mail address I am building my username (the part before the @ in the e-mail address) by using a unique prefix, a dash ("-"), and the name of the service (for example firstname.lastname@example.org). You can find out more about MailBucket's excellent free service at http://www.mailbucket.org.
Of course it is not advisable to use a MailBucket address when signing up for a service where a secret password or other confidential information will be sent to you, because all feeds are public and unprotected. For a few months I have been a happy user, subscribing to news alerts from for example BookCrossing and TopCoder as well as various Yahoo Groups. It also automatically provides me with a convenient way of categorizing my incoming messages compared with using my regular e-mail address for everything.
Back in Blog Business
I am back from a long blog break which became much longer than scheduled. We went for two weeks' vacation in Sweden, which was excellent. Coming back to Israel I realized that I had forgotten my USB disk in Sweden. The disk contained my blog database, so I asked them to send it to me. A week ago it arrived, but the Thingamablog database had been corrupted for some reason; I guess it didn't like all the traveling... A lesson as good as any to take backups more seriously.
Now I have finally managed to restore the database to a state more or less as it was before, and the blog should get going again.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Microsoft Resolves Controversy (WTG!)
Shortly after I published my previous blog post regarding the Made In Express Contest controversy, Microsoft contacted me. They said that they had conducted a review of the final results and had decided to award the amount of the Grand Prize to both of the First Place winners!
So what swayed Microsoft into changing their attitude? I am not saying that my blog post did it, but I like to think that it played a part in their decision. Another huge contributor to this decision was Channel9 user Minh (thank you!), who called up Mark Jewett at Microsoft to get some answers. The phone conversation was recorded and you can download the mp3 from here.
Way to go, Mark Jewett and Microsoft! I know that you took a a lot of abuse in the C9 forums but the way that you resolved the situation impresses me. Thank you!
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
The Big Controversy Regarding the Winner(s)
C9 posters demand that the winning team in Made In Express Contest will be disqualified from the competition and their $10,000 prize revoked. They point at evidence that the winner, professor Ernie Hall, did not abide by the rules by using already developed code and working in a team.
I have been lurking in the C9 forums for the last few days, following the heated debate. Three forum threads    totaling over 200 posts to date, cover it all. The posters include Mark Jewett, the MS guy behind the contest, as well as two out of the three judges, Chris Pirillo and Robert Scoble.
I assume the rest of the finalists have been following the C9 discussion as well, but so far all of them have kept mum. As the runner-ups, I and Ali Khalid, are identified as the big losers in all of this (a mere $9,000), I decided to make my opinion heard.
First of all I must admit that Ernie's robot AI entry was my favorite as well. I think that it really showcases Express Edition's versatility when it comes to product ideas. That's probably why Microsoft liked it too. However, when I look at all the hard facts about the rules and compare them with Ernie's submission it is quite obvious that something is wrong here. It becomes clear by just reading any of his blog entries where he is posting C# source code. In the file header it is clearly written that someone else wrote the code in 2005. Many of the header files in his submitted source code have timestamps from 2005 and are signed by other developers.
If you download the source code you will also see that the code was not
initially written in Express Edition, but rather converted to this
format at a later stage. The presence of the
I am glad that the C9 forum opened up my eyes to this as I was too busy
coding FeedJournal than to check if my competitors were adhering to the
rules during the contest. Anyway, according to Microsoft's forum answers
it seems unlikely that they will do anything about this. Instead their
official response is rather dry:
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
FeedJournal is Awarded First Place in Microsoft Contest
Yesterday, Microsoft announced that my newspaper project FeedJournal had been awarded First Place in their Made In Express Contest. As regular readers of my blog know, my brainchild FeedJournal is the .NET application I am writing to revolutionize the way you read newspapers.
The judges (Chris Pirillo, LockerGnome; Phillip Torrone, MAKE Magazine; Robert Scoble, Scobleizer) motivation read:
Jonas helped us all take a step closer to publishing our own newspaper based on the news we care about. FeedJournal is actually a little glimpse of the future…it will likely be a common way for readers to ‘roll their own’ magazines in the near future.
This is probably my finest moment ever in my long software development career and I want to thank Microsoft for arranging the contest and everyone who has supported the project by dropping emails or blog comments. And I want to send a special thank you to my wife and baby daughter for having patience with my late evening development sessions during this time.