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It's hard to be aggressive when you are confused.

Asteroids VS HTML5

Advanced HTML5 stack, Canvas, Audio API

You think you’ve got problems?

I’m fighting for my life having been dumped into a random asteroid belt in a tiny green spaceship.

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Cookie Cutter

One of the advantages of WordPress is that it allows non-technical users to update and edit their own content.

The system does it’s best to keep everything looking good, however, if you start adding images of various sizes and shapes it can quickly start to look messy.

Sites look best when images conform to a consistent size and aspect ratio, however, often when you mention aspect ratio to someone they glaze over. (Aspect ratio simply determines whether your image is square, tall or wide.)

I have written tutorials for clients on how to crop and resize their images for the best results but the process requires many tedious steps.

Using the latest HTML5 features I have simplified and automated the process of creating consistent images for a web site.

Simply set your size, pick an image, tweak the image with a single control and save the image ready for your site.

cookie_cutter_demo

Unfortunately, if you are not using Google Chrome as your browser don’t bother. This utility uses many features that are not supported in other browsers.

Check Out the Cookie Cutter ( Chrome Browsers Only )

The Chicken Shed

You know those annoying automated telephone information services?  “Dial 1 for Technical Support, Dial 2 for Sales, Dial 3 to realise you are sad wetware being told what to do by a machine?”.  Soz, but I used to make these.  It paid for a house I had out in the hills.

I’m ashamed to admit I did the audio for all jobs that came my way including a competition line quiz that kept the user on the line for at least 10 minutes at $4 per minute before they could leave their contact details, which, most likely, went into the bin.  Sucked in kid.  Sucked in Mum paying the phone bill.

Up until recently I was still supplying voice recording for the VCE results services.  For… Veggie Maths… you have… failed… dial 1 to receive a MacDonalds job application form in the post.

My voiceover business was like a Betamax video library.  It was only a matter of time it was replaced by something better.  In this instance, better was the electric internet.  Click Home for the Home page…

I lived on a half-acre block at the time and I owned chickens.  I love chickens.  They are all Zen and Dinosaur like.  They are a beautiful live garden feature.  I would rescue them from battery farms and enslave them under slightly better living conditions.

I built a walk-in chicken shed with my bare hands.  Externally accessible laying box.  The chicken area was surrounded by a high fence which extended along the ground surface.  If you were a fox you would need to dig a hole at least a meter long before you could murder the chickens.

I then went on to fully automate the chickens living environment.

At dawn the shed door would open allowing the chooks to free range in their large, secure compound.  Fresh water was continually topped up from mains and a large bin held chicken pellets which were distributed daily.  At dusk, with the chooks safely inside, the door would close.

The whole affair was run by an old AT class PC and a program written in QBASIC driving relays via a parallel port.

I am proud to say the system had an average uptime of 3 weeks without human intervention.  Sadly though, one chicken lost it’s life to a hastily deployed door opening mechanism.  I console myself with the fact that, by the evidence remaining, it’s death was quick and painless.  Sorry old chook. 🙁

You Do Have a Backup Don’t You?

Hundreds of hours of work gone. Forever.

She hadn’t visited her website in weeks but when she did all she saw was:

HACKED BY SECURITY CREWZ

I called the Hosting Provider and asked them to roll back the site. Unfortunately, the site had not been placed in the standard folder that the Hosting Provider automatically backed up. Even if the folder was in the right place the Hosting Provider only backed up daily for the past week. In this case, by now, her backups would be copied of a hacked site.

I had a look around at what remained of the file structure. It was a write off. The hackers had broken into her home and locked her out.

She now left with no choice but to go back to the original site developer and hope that they are able to redeploy the original build (minus the hundreds of hours of work updating the site since it was initially deployed.)

How do hackers do it? Software, and people, always have vulnerabilities. New exploits are always being found. New ways to access data and wreak havoc. Hackers don’t even need to visit the sites themselves. They can just set up “web-crawlers” that look for sites with known key words. Once the crawler finds a vulnerable site it notifies them and they can attempt to get in and ruin your day.

Why do hackers do it? Some people just want to watch the world burn.

How do you stop it? Keep your WordPress version up to date. Keep your WordPress plugins up to date. Use strong passwords. As a final precaution, backup your WordPress site on a regular basis.

The websites I build are always set up with a backup schedule so if this kind of thing had happened to one of my websites I could have restored the site in no time at all.

If you are interested in some peace of mind contact me to arrange a site appraisal. It’s a rough neighborhood and I’d hate to see anything happen to you…

hacked-by

Siri Speaks

[Ding] “Hello Catherine, this is Siri. How can I help you?”

Princess Sparkle of Moreland accidentally leaves her iPhone on during her debate presentation at the annual Woodford Planting Festival.

Having just confessed that she is underprepared and at a loss as to how to proceed her mobile devices AI construct kindly offers to help.

The resulting real time dialogue generates an enormous amount of laughter. There is nothing quite as funny as a computer saying “this jumper sucks a bag of dicks grandma”.

But how did she do it?

As is often the case with these things there is a keen tech head in the shadows. A tech head who was asked the right questions. “Here is my idea. Can you build it?” In this case, after 30 minutes research and a working demo of the process the answer was “yes”.

Siri uses a voice synthesiser that is also available on a Mac. (On the Mac she is known as Samantha and is one of many voices available.) Invoking a terminal and typing “say ‘Hello world'” makes your computer say “Hello world”.

Catherine’s script had around 25 dialogue cues for Siri. We needed to be able to create the cues as individual audio files to play on command.

More terminal command line magic helped here. If I type “say ‘cue_01’ ‘Hello world ‘” rather that saying it out loud an audio file called cue_01.AIFF is created.

So now all I had to do was manually type in all the cues and generate the files.

Tech heads would never do anything so tedious and unrepeatable as that. Also, it is best to have a single representation of the dialogue for ease of editing. We are working with humans after all. There WILL be editing.

“Automator” is a Mac utility that, among other things, allows you to string together any number of commands and run them with a single button press.

Once the initial script was entered, making modifications to the Siri dialogue was easy. Make the modification and click “run” to have all of the dialogue regenerated in 3 seconds.

The result was a folder with all the cues lined up and ready to roll.

My job at performance time was simply to wait for the laughter to subside before hitting the “down” arrow to launch the next cue.