somewhere to talk about random ideas and projects like everyone else



This site is going down tomorrow in protest of SOPA/PIPA 17 January 2012

Not that anyone is going to particularly miss my blog (most of my other web pages will still be up because I’m far too lazy to go through all of them in order to make a slightly less futile protest). But this is one of the most interesting internetwide events that I’ve ever encountered, and I should be shamed to not take part in it. Copyright and its ongoing war with libertarian and anarchist mentalities has fascinated me ever since squinting through Free Culture on my iPhone more than five year ago. Going to Jonathan Zittrain’s Free Culture X keynote a few years ago was fun too.

I’m sure most would feel uncomfortable with my characterization of this as some cyberlibertarian movement, but I think it’s an entirely excusable position for someone living through a period of adolescence characterized by rebellion and Ayn Rand. It’s certainly not the only perspective, but it seems the most poignant and consistent, not that consistency is necessarily a goal of any legislative body. Legislative bodies are meant, to borrow from programming jargon, to monkey-patch a framework that ill-approximates the societal expectation of government.

Now excuse me while I contrive a metaphor that relates to something that I don’t know much about and will seem cringe-worthy to anyone knowledgeable in the subject. Lets say that the Earth is the shape of what the ideal government is. Not ideal in a sense that it’s perfect and elegant, but in the sense that it is empirically derived through the scientific process of experiment. But in large part, this mass conforms to a very general principle (maximizing individual freedoms). I would characterize this is approximating the earth as a sphere. For nearly all applications, this rather crude geometric model works astonishingly well, leading some to even believe that this is what the world actually is. That everything else, the obsession with finding imperfection is actually a delusion and everything comes from measurement error (well, that’s when this metaphor breaks down because nobody actually does this). Legislators shape the body of law to conform with the needs of society by poking and adding ridges to where the overlay is incongruous. They do the passive activity of fixing the model, the geoid, to incredible precision. But there’s a more radical way, molding the earth into what our model was. We can forget about the lapses, and soon enough the surface of hte earth will erode down into that perfect sphere of ideology.

There. I think I’ve fulfilled my obligation to write some words with some ostensible meaning with regard to something that pertains rather dearly to my life. If this passes and we descend into a dystopian nightmare reminiscent of 1984, at least I’ll have something to look back on. An old man filled with regret waiting to die alone. Or at least without an internet. I did my best (but still far from enough, as is anything besides martyrdom) to preserve crowd immunity to hazardous legislation, but alas we were stricken.

Google Drive + Cloud Save 29 April 2011

Google Drive launched a little less than a week ago and has introduced itself as something of a mere Dropbox clone. But I really think it has some potential for differentiating itself from Dropbox in the longer run by integrating some of the functionality of Cloud Save. I guess it’s sort of alluded to by the actual name, a Drive does more than just act as a keep safe for certain intended files, but rather wholly replaces everything. It’s the next logical step for Cloud Save that I certainly can’t take it to, deduplicating all the files on the internet so that online and offline are absolutely seamless.

HTML5 Offline Wikipedia Reader and Help me win a Cr-48 04 February 2011

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So, lets begin with a plead for you to rate my submission (ideally favorably) for the LucidChart chrome notebook contest, partly because it would be awesome, and I need to test the aforementioned HTML5 offline Wikipedia dump reader.

Wikipedia is awesome, and on my service-less iPhone 2G, one of the most useful apps is one with an outdated (by something like three years) Wikipedia dump reader. There’s something very much like the Hitchhiker’s Guide in carrying the “sum of all human knowledge” in one’s pocket. Wikipedia grows really quickly and the English language dump (as of last month at time of writing) is over six gigs of bzipped XML.

Another reason for building an offline Wikipedia dump reader is simply that I can. There’s a lot of cool and cutting edge stuff in this. It uses the file input JS API, FileReader, Blobs, WebWorkers, fast Javascript to handle a pure-JS implementation of the LZMA compression algorithm, and the FileSystem API.

All this stuff has only been possible for a very short amount of time. In fact, the FileSystem API only arrived with the release of Chrome 9 today. It’s pretty awesome to imagine that a web page, HTML and Javascript is processing multiple gigabytes of data at real time. At the current unoptimized state, the search results and the article shows up instantly within 100ms of a key press event (However, I admit it has yet to be tested on the actual English Wikipedia).

This app is almost ideally suited for Chrome OS. A hundred megabytes worth of data in a month (with the Verizon deal, not to mention that it’s limited to two years) isn’t very much and it would be a pity for the sixteen gigabytes of SSD space on a Cr-48 to be wasted. One of the dumps that I’ve compiled is a subset of the English Wiktionary which makes a great lightweight (8MB) dictionary with over sixty five thousand words. Wiktionary is fairly large at 217MB, and the Simple English Wikipedia is 51MB.

Assuming you can somehow access the dumps, I probably won’t post them on this server because of the massive bandwidth usage, someone else could, the process for using it is very simple. Download the file to your computer through HTTP, a torrent, or create it yourself. You might have noticed that the favicon is a picture of a carrot because that’s the current codename. Well, not really a codename, but I was scrolling through some icon lists and saw one for a carrot on the first page. I don’t even like carrots, but I digress. The dump uploading screen has a picture of a bunny biting a file upload carrot that you click on to select the file. Select the file, and it automagically copies it over to a persistent folder. Then you’re off to searching and reading articles and definitions :)

I’m not done yet, or at least, I don’t feel like packaging it up and submitting it to the chrome webstore yet because I need to figure out a good way to host database dumps.