December 8, 2006

Because it's there

ok, now I'm disappointed. While having a quick (ish) break, I was messing around with Google Earth, and zipping from seeing surfers in Hawaii, to Baghdad, to my nan's place in Wales etc. I was just tapping in the name to see if Google would just dash to right place, which it usually did.

I tried Everest however, hoping to get some nice mountain views, but instead got this;


Nobody on the peak unfortunately, but at least the weather's clear...

June 12, 2006

Google Analytics

I was recently invited to try out Google Analytics. Not that I'm anything special, as I'm sure thousands of people are beta testing it at the moment, but I have to say it is the most impressive web stats I've ever seen. It knocks the socks off everything else, even commercial packages. For my fun stuff like this blog (yes, it *is* fun!), I use the freeware bbclone, which you can have a nice nosey around here. It's set to show visitors, not hits, pageviews or robots, so if the numbers seem really tiny to you, perhaps you should check that your logs are really measuring what you think they're measuring (most sites can easily get several hundred bots a day, and none of them really care what you're writing about! Most visitors have several pageviews, and hits, well, just what is the point other than to make a really really big number...).

google analytics

Admittedly, I've not been registered very long with google analytics, and my poor little blog doesn't really have that much traffic - although to everyone who does come here, I love you all! In fact, I especially love the 38.5% of you who are returning visitors! A regular readership! I must be writing something worth reading...

The geo data seems amazingly precise - I'm not saying it's accurate (it probably is), but most packages I've seen only seem to approximate where a person visits from, yet Google analytics provides some very snazzy maps.


I'm not sure whether I should be surprised that the majority of my visitors come from Paris and the surrounding area. I think probably I should be surprised - why would you all want to read my ramblings about Paris when you live here? It was nice to see a few people from Corsica, which is my parents favourite holiday destination. After Paris it looks like Seattle is the next hottest place. Is that because you are complete internet junkies, or because I slate Starbucks all the time?

Anyway, that's just the pretty stuff. The more amazing stats are where you can see how deep each person browses your site, where they enter and exit, visitor loyalty and all sorts of stuff like that. You can even see your site with the stats overlaid, so you can tell which links are the most effective, or most ignored.

Cool stuff. Google on their way to dominating the web world even more. I guess at some point we should in principle dislike them, but most of their stuff is just too good...

June 6, 2006

Test for Technorati

Technorati Profile

May 16, 2006

Parallel parking

While reading some other blogs, I recently came across a link to this flash game on parallel parking your car.

Usually when I try something like this in real life, I either need a space the size of an articulated truck, or extremely durable bumpers. However, watch the replay of the top score - not natural I tell you...

May 15, 2006

The villainies of Infinite monkeys

TypingMonkey.gifThere's a theory that if an infinite number of monkeys had typewriters, they'd produce the complete works of Shakespeare. That's actually a dumbed down version for us non-french speakers. The original was by a guy called Émile Borel, who said 'a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard will almost surely eventually type every book in France's Bibliothèque nationale de France'. As wikipedia points out, 'almost surely eventually' seems rather non-committal. Such is the nature of the french perhaps ;-)

Anyway, it made me think that if monkeys can do it, surely bloggers can come close too. So, after writing a few bits of code, I left my computer to churn over the weekend and see what it would come up with. Basically it looked for blog entries using words from Macbeth (my favourite Shakespeare play), and tried to reconstruct it.

It did very well, although still one or two words missing (I can't believe it couldn't find villainies, don't no-one speak no proper english no more? So I've used it here, which strictly speaking is one great big cheat!).

You can see the results here on my infinite monkeys page. I also added some niceties like a search for your blog, in the hope that people would put nice links to it on their blogs...

May 11, 2006

Niche Humour

My elevator was recently serviced, which is quite a relief as for the last year there's been a sign saying 'Last service by M. Lagrange'. For an entire year I've been running the risk of hitting a point of stability between the ground and 4th floor, destined to float between the two forever....

Of course, most of you won't have a clue what I'm talking about. It's a physics joke, that only physicists will get. Like this one;

There was a dairy farmer who, in a fit of desperation over the fact that his cows won't give enough milk, consults a theoretical physicist about the problem. The physicist listens to him, asks a few questions, and then says he'll take the assignment. A few weeks later, he calls up the farmer, and says "I've got the answer." They arrange for him to give a presentation of his solution to the milk shortage.

When the day for the presentation arrives, he begins his talk by saying, "First, we assume a spherical cow..."

I've told this to plenty of non-physicists, and most (if not all) just stared at me blankly. When I told it to some physics friends (or synchronously correlated associates as we call them), they all thought it was hilarious!

A friend of mine (a computer spod, rather than a physics nerd) reckoned that there's niche jokes for every career or hobby going, whether it's physics, accounting, or tinpot dictator. Each will have some jokes that only they get, and everyone else will give blank stares to. Well, maybe, perhaps everyone still laughs for the dictator jokes.

For those into tiny details, the lift was serviced by a M. Fils.

May 5, 2006


Just a quickie entry this morning as I'm in danger of letting this blog stagnate.

First a cute picture. Yesterday I was on rue Montorgueil, and there was a big fuss around some fire trucks (my friend Alison's favourite word is 'pompier', no idea why!). They were moving the ladder up and down aimlessly, and there was no smoke or anything dangerous happening.

Last year we saw them doing at the same spot taking children up and down the ladder, just as a community thing, so it could be the same event again.


April 12, 2006

Watchmen on Mars

Apparently another face has been found on Mars.

All the news items are calling it a 'happy face'.

Sooo uncool. Obviously they never read my blog on Watchmen...

Actually, it seems to be a mirror version though. Maybe my memory is a bit fuzzy, but I always thought it was this way round anyway, although the moment I flipped it, it looked wrong again...

April 5, 2006


I noticed a visit or two was coming from, and so I wondered over there to find out who it was, and it turns out to be a really cool personal web portal thing (um, I can't think what to actually call it).

It looks like you can set up your own webspace, with RSS feeds, create your own blog etc. I've seen other sites that do the same thing, but this one is really nice. Each sub window is drag and drop, you can type straight into the page and it's all very very clearly laid out.

Have a look here

March 26, 2006

Storage room

um, don't bother reading this. I wanted to keep this somewhere where I won't lose it easily....


and don't bother asking what it does either... If you're geeky enough to see what it does, then feel free to use it (you deserve it!)

March 14, 2006


I was about to blog about this story about blind hamsters having their sight restored by nanotechnology, and was going to try and be witty by wondering what the hamsters wanted to see first with their new vision (New England Autumn, Grand Canyon, Paris Hilton's video?), but once I read the story properly, it's too amazing to take the piss out of!

The severed optic nerves were injected with nanites that grouped to form a grid structure, allowing the nerves to regrow. While it's not the mini robots of science fiction, this is the first time I've ever heard of nanotechnology actually do something useful. Past the stage of conjecture, and into reality (even if only in the lab)! Fantastic!!!

February 22, 2006


Life's hectic all of a sudden. I'm only just getting over the jetlag from San Diego, and then next week I have to dash off to Barcelona for another job. Not that I'm complaining about the travel, I've never been to the West coast, or Spain before, so it's all new to me. But it is tiring, and it's looking like my blog is the first thing to get left behind (um, along with laundry, washing up, and eating non-frozen foods). Nevertheless, I'll try and post the best I can...

One element of the hecticness comes from the sudden turnaround of Google - the Jagger update severely dropped Trips Europe in the ratings, and the number of people looking to stay with us dropped along with it. Things got a bit bleak just before Christmas :-(

However, there's been another huge update, this time called BigDaddy, and we're now back, and higher than ever! Do a search for "rental in Paris" on Google, and there we are, numero uno!!!! (update: Well, sometimes - I just tried again and we're sixth. A few refreshes later, back at top - the update is probably still ongoing...)

The upturn in business is incredible, which is great but also worrying - it seems we really depend on just one search engine, and we're at the mercy of their whims. Obviously we promote our site as best as possible, but there's no way you can safely predict the company's growth for the next year when at any moment Google can dash it to pieces... I use Google a lot myself (and as a discerning geek, it's because they are the best), but their dominance is starting to look a bit scary.

February 8, 2006

Watching you closely

Egotistically I love watching my website stats. Possibly a bit too much, as it's an utterly pointless thing to do, but I can't help it!

Anyway, my favourite part is what search terms people used to find me. Of course, they weren't looking for me, but something about my listing caught their eye and they ended up here.

Here's the list from the last few days:

dreams about squirrels crossing the road
marais paris
paris hilton
launchcast doesn't load in yahoo sidebar
transfer d'appel topic
watchmen badge

Now I really want to know about that squirrel dream! Actually I could imagine it being quite disturbing, probably something about life being too short...

oh, and didn't I tell you that mentioning Paris Hilton would increase my traffic!

February 5, 2006


This is a paper model dragon, whose head follows you around the room (sorry for the jerky vid, but I wanted to do an animated gif rather than an avi, since it doesn't need anything special to see it)


Here's the template so you can make one yourself.

It only works if you close one eye, and even this it's a bit tricky - a bit like those pictures you're supposed to look *'through* before you see the 3D image, although this isn't as hard as that. The easiest way is to shut both eyes, and then open one - if you start with both your eyes open, and shut one eye, it tends not to fool the brain...

*update* If you stand far enough away (more than 6 feet say), it works with both eyes open. And also, this isn't my design, I found it floating on the web somewhere...

February 3, 2006

Professional gamers

Here's a surprising story about professional sports. Apparently a professional tennis player has switched to professional video game playing since it's easier to make a living!

He describes the world of tennis as being extremely top heavy when it comes to the sponsors and rewards of playing, so that only the top few can actually make any money (or a living even). In comparison, professional video gamers can find sponsors easily even if the top prizes are smaller.

It's probably interesting that the tennis player was British, which only goes to enforce the image that British tennis is still woefully undersupported...

February 2, 2006

A quiet revolution

When I arrived in Paris 5 years ago, rather sadly one of the things I was most excited about was getting broadband internet! In Britain ADSL still didn't exist, and the best you could do was a double ISDN line which would sputter out 256k at best (about 5 times faster than a dial-up modem). France Telecom were offering 500k ADSL for about 60 euros a month, which shockingly I was quite happy to pay for.

Since then, things have moved at an amazing pace! The speeds jumped, from 500k to 1MB, to 2Mb and last year to 20Mb, while the prices dropped and dropped, so now I'm paying 15 euros/month for 40 times the speed of that original line (all a bit fake though really, since I've *never* seen 20Mb/s speeds, but it still is very very fast). Meanwhile back in the UK, ADSL made an appearance, but has still not risen above 2Mb, while the prices are still 60 euros/month!

Around Christmas time, the biggest jump of all happened. VoIP here became a household reality,and not just Skype style internet telephony, but regular landline phone type VoIP - the type that even your slightly confused gran can cope with. Even more significantly they're offering not only free phone calls in France, but free international calls! For expats like me, that's pretty cool, but for a business, this must be a major saving.

Strangely there doesn't seem to be much talk about it, but surely *everyone* will switch over to these services. Certainly for our apartments it should prove popular with the visitors - we'll just have to persuade the owners to switch over (which they probably will, since the line rental is cheaper than FT anyway).

Actually I haven't switched yet though - Neuf have given me such a horrendous run-around when FT accidentally snipped my phone lines (leaving me offline for a month!) that I'm not too keen to find out how much downtime will happen once I do.

January 20, 2006

Who watches the Watchmen

I just walked past someone with a Watchman badge on!

I spent months when I was a student trying to track one of those down, and once I found one I wore it religously for about two years before it rusted off and I lost it. I think someone's making a film on it now (the book, not me looking for a badge), so that'll make it very uncool I suppose.

January 17, 2006

My Google desktop

Also yesterday I noticed my google desktop weather bar is a complete phony. It was saying the weather was nice and bright while clearly outside it was completely clouded over with just a dash of rain (the dash that turned into the hateful gonna get you rain today).

So, I was on the phone to the gorgeous Alison (you never know, she might be reading), and she was doubting we'd be able to play tennis on wednesday since it looked like rain etc, and I was saying 'oh, of course not - my superior google desktop weather predictor says it's fine' (I didn't actually say that, just that the weather was going to be ok, but it's leading up to my sarcastic comments about google's desktop weather thingy...), even though clearly all I had to do was turn my head 90 degrees left, look out the window and see that the weather thingy was wayyy off base.

Just as I'd said that, the weather thingy suddenly updated and went all the way from bright and clear to overcast with chance of rain! What! There's definitely some dodgy privacy issues here, since some spod at Google is listening in to my call, called someone up in Paris and said, oy, is it bright & clear, they've said Non, and they changed the google bar. Right there and then. Not even a cunning transitionary phase of 'bit of cloud, could get worse', just wham, straight into 'yuk weather, stay at home'.

Anyway, it still says nice and bright for wednesday, which is the main thing, because that means I'm still right about the weather and we *will* be playing tennis...

January 11, 2006

Newbie to pinging services

Movable Type pings three sites when I add an article, but I've just realised there are loads more. So, this is a posting to try them out really, so apologies for possibly the most dull blog entry ever! On the other hand, it's not as if I've been inspired to write anything really interesting lately anyway - too much work to do, so tied to the desk rather than exploring for cool tid-bits to write about.

The one interesting thing I have found lately is, which I'm using to send out my articles on Paris. They seem a fairly new service, so some things are a bit shaky at the moment. However, it did get my article distributed a fair distance, certainly further than I could be bothered to do. Now I'm just waiting for my google alerts to tell me if anyone published any of them...

January 9, 2006

Mad scientists

A friend forwarded me this story from New Scientist. It's about a mid-20th century who had been working on anti-gravity, and possible hyper-space travel. Normally all the stuff you read about on the net on these topics is sheer bollocks, pretty much on par with the Area 51 wackos - it's startling (or worrying) how many people can just tag professor or Dr onto their name and then claim to be experts in something or other. Or actually, the worrying part is that other people go along with it.

Anyway, this story seems to have some credence to it. Well, kind of anyway - the credence only comes from the lack of dismissal by other scientists rather than the evidence backing the theory up. The scientists asked about the theory said they couldn't understand it, and so couldn't rubbish the idea. Honest I suppose.

Anyway, the real reason I think this is a cool story isn't because of the fantastic claims it makes, but because of the scientist himself. Apparently when he was 19 he accidentally blew himself up in the lab, and lost both forearms, his hearing and his sight. Despite this he carried on to study quantum physics with his parents transcribing all his equations etc...

January 6, 2006

Photo album

Quite a while ago I spent ages trying to find a simple cgi or php webpage that could create a thumbnail photoalbum from the folders that contained the photos. All I wanted to do was upload all my photos, plus this page, and that should be it - no rebuilding, converting etc.

I never found it, which seemed amazing as it's such a simple thing to do. So, I made my own and here it is. Just put it in a folder called album (or whatever), then create a subfolder called Pics - this folder contains all your photos sorted out in subfolders with good names (like xmas2005 etc). Then add a second subfolder called thumbs, and have exactly the same as Pics, but all the pictures have been shrunk to thumnail size (I use Irfan view for this). And that's it. When you add more photos, just upload them, no changes to the photo album page needed.

In all, it's about 20 lines of very simple php code. I can understand why I couldn't find this anywhere....

Oh, and you can see an example of how I've used it on my photo album page here.

January 4, 2006

Visitor statistics

I've been watching closely the webstats of this site, wondering if any real people have visited yet. I'd be surprised if they have (um, other than friends & family). I'm only looking at the stats page that my webhost company have supplied, but it's no worse or better than any other I've seen. The biggest problem is it doesn't distinguish between spiders and real people at all. I can't believe it's that hard to do. For the Trips Europe site I implemented a cookie scheme to track visitors since spiders didn't seem to use cookies, and it works fairly well. It allows me to see which pages are the most popular, and also gives stats that are more specific to apartment rentals (for instance, I can see the peak periods people want to arrive, or the average length they'd like to stay).

The other thing I'd like to see is the path people take when they visit the site, not just the entry and exit pages. We have quite a few visitors to the site, and if they all booked then we'd be very rich :-) It would be nice though to take a guess why some don't - apartment not available? not enough beds? etc. We could then tailor things to help people find what they want...

January 2, 2006


Here's a couple of photos from my Sony Ericsson K600i phone. Not too bad when there's lots of light, but awful when there's not!


(BTW, neither of these guys are me!)

I still haven't found a way to send it to the blog yet, so still have to download from the phone and then upload it to the blog. Even worse, I have to rotate the photo on the PC since the phone's rotate doesn't (well, it rotates on the phone, but the downloaded pic is still sideways).


I've just removed the google adsense ads that were on my blog. Initially I thought 'ooh, extra cash', but once I'd implemented it I began to realise that it's very unlikely to make much or any money. Even if my blog was super popular, I still don't think many people would click on the ads (and they'd probably be my competitors since I'm talking about paris and apartments most of the time!).

So, faced with either making $1 every couple of months or a nice ad-free site, I got rid of them all.

December 22, 2005


I received a new mobile phone the other week which has a much better camera than my old phone. New blog + new camera = moblogging of course! It all seemed to easy with Mfop2, but unfortunately after a day of trying I finally find out it doesn't work with Movable Type 3.2 :-(

Is it worth pursuing any further. Sure it is, but I can't be bothered right now. Perhaps after christmas - at least you'll be spared the close-ups of the household pets, chocolates and the xmas turkey...

December 21, 2005


This is cool stuff (not that I'm the first to find it!) - VMWare

It allows you to run virtual computers from windows or linux. At the moment my PC is dual boot Debian linux and W2K, and if I need to try something out on the other OS I have to reboot. Now that's a thing of the past! Well, more or less anyway. I found a few links to hack around with it, and was able to make my own Debian images.

How useful is it? For me I need to do lots of testing on both linux and windows, so it's great for me. Also for any web development it's useful to see results in browsers under different OS's quickly, although I'm going to need a mac image to be really useful for that.