Archive for November, 2007

The 3-day Middle-east peace process vs. the price at the pump

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Read more at:
NY Times: Bush Promotes Middle East Peace Dialogue

Bush kick starts Middle East peace talks

Egypt: The Annapolis Peace Conference

Tragedy and Travesty at Annapolis

Tiny urls: Taking WWW towards a single point of failure

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Tinyurl, urltea and several other url reducers provide an excellent service where they reduce the sometimes very long urls to a fraction of their original size. The short version of the URL provides relief to people on the phone (can’t really think of anything else which could benefit from the service). Thanks to the growth of twitter, the url abbreviating services have gained a lot of popularity recently, so much so that people have started replacing regular URLs on the web (eg. Look at the comment in this post). Charlene Li even considered having the tiny URLs in her book. David Pogue carries the ecstatic side of finding a new service without evaluating the potential pitfalls.

I don’t understand why people want to mask the URL for the normal WWW. A lot of people click the URL after doing a hover and figuring out the actual target.

5 minutes ago, I clicked on a urltea link and I got a 503 HTTP Error:

A 503. Service is not available from urltea. Tinyurl claims to have abbreviated a billion urls. Imagine the impact of such a downtime.

The URL abbreviation services pose the following problems:

1. Single point of failure for billions of web urls. This totally defeats the distributed architecture of WWW.
2. Masked urls could be prone to deception by spammers and XSS exploiters. Quoting Wired Blog, “your audience has no clue where it will lead — could be a porn link, could be a virus laden site from Russia.”
3. A lot of browser security features work on the domain name and it’s associated attributes stored locally. A different url masks the true domain.
4. It leads to even more problems in the text mining community — where a single domain pollutes the corpus of links, while hiding the actual target. Any link analyzer has to first resolve the actual target of the tiny url by performing an HTTP HEAD request.
5. What if tinyurl gets bought by a get-rich-quick advertising company and they start sending a pop-up along with the actual URL. That would be an idea for someone to make a lot of money from billions of tiny urls!

The value provided by these services for mobile is great — it’s a big problem when the tiny urls start popping up on everybody’s webpages! I’m not alone to think there is something wrong with the service in the WWW context. Here’s Tom and here’s Scott Rosenberg of Salon.

Java Generics: Taking the fun away from writing code in Java

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Coding in Java was simple until Java 5 (or Java 1.5 — 1.5 is the developer version and Java 5 is the marketing version as Sun calls it!). Learning generics in Java 1.5 is like learning Microsoft COM programming, it would take at least 5 passes to absorb it right.

Look at this simple call, before generics

1 List myIntList = new LinkedList(); 
2 myIntList.add(new Integer(0)); 
3 Integer x = (Integer) myIntList.iterator().next(); 

How about now:

1 List<Integer> myIntList = new LinkedList<Integer>(); 
2 myIntList.add(new Integer(0)); 
3 Integer x = myIntList.iterator().next(); 

Here is the source snippet of java.util.Collection class from the 1.5 version. Makes me wipe the sweat.

1 public interface Collection<E> extends Iterable<E> {
2 <T> T[] toArray(T[] a);
3 boolean containsAll(Collection<?> c);
4 boolean addAll(Collection<? extends E> c);
5 Iterator<E> iterator();
6 }

Yeah, yeah. The fans of C++ would love it, it looks like the C++ templates, compile-time type checking, etc. — Well, programmers shall figure out other ways of making mistakes like working on a null object :D)
No way out, I need to learn it ‘coz 1.6 is already out and I was still hanging on to 1.4 till yesterday!

Facebook does Myspace: Bono releases a new track for The Joshua Tree

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Bono has released a previously unheard track from The Joshua Tree called “Wave of Sorrow” on Facebook’s iLike application today as a Facebook video. While this certainly is the first and major artist appearance, I’m sure Facebook is on the path to give other social networks (read, Myspace) run for the money. Keep the social networking politics aside — Enjoy the new song!

Leave your feedback to the song here

Twitter as a Transport Layer of Intentions, Ideas, Intutions, Infatuations, etc.

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

During the times when I was getting bored, I started playing around with twitter. The idea is simple — communicate with the world in 140 characters or less, either through SMS, IM or plain web. These short messages get broadcasted to people who are either “following” a person or “tracking” words. The notifications can be displayed through the same mechanism viz. SMS, IM, web. These 140 character messages are nothing but 4 broad categories of (a) what people like (b) what they want/intend (c) what they are thinking (d) ideas about stuff.

The most interesting aspect of twitter is it’s public timeline, where it shows real-time messages from people across the globe. This is where it gets interesting. You can track for example “wild fire” or “california” or a particular movie. Like blogs, there is immense amount of publicly available information which can be chopped for further use.

I also see several other future possibilities of applications on top of twitter for creating communities, commerce, and interactions. This may turn twitter into a platform rather than an application in itself. I like to call it TLI (Transport Layer for Ideas (or intutions, intentions or infatuations).

Out of the boredom and coding in between boring Hindi movies, I created twitterarc — a simple application which wraps Ajax on top of the twitter public timeline. There are a lot of cool things which are possible.