Archive for June 2007

VOIP on the iPhone">VOIP on the iPhone

Dave Winer advances a the­ory on why there’s no SDK for the iPhone right now:

There’s one appli­ca­tion, for sure, that could mess up not just Cingular’s West Coast net­work, but the whole idea of an Internet-capable PDA with wifi that wants to be a con­ven­tional cell phone. It’s called Skype, and it really wor­ries the phone com­pa­nies. So much so that they might have made the closed­ness of the iPhone a con­di­tion of work­ing with Apple. Perma­link to this paragraph

Shortly after Apple opens the iPhone, if they ever do, expect a com­pat­i­ble ver­sion of Skype to fol­low shortly after.

Dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Daniel Miessler, it occured to me that:

There’s at least one VOIP provider who could still hap­pily have an inter­face on the iPhone, despite the lack of an SDK: JaJah (!

(yes, I cor­rected a typo I made when post­ing the orig­i­nal com­ment. So sue me.)

JaJah pro­vide a ser­vice whereby you spec­ify both the num­ber of the per­son you want to call and your own num­ber; it then calls both ends and joins them together. In effect, you have to pay for two VOIP calls — one from JaJah to you, one from JaJah to the other end — but that’s usu­ally cheaper than pay­ing for one non-VOIP call from you to the other end.

JaJah are the only VOIP provider I know of who pro­vide this func­tion­al­ity. It’s almost too good a deal for them to ignore — They’d be insane not to have a nice inter­face ready for the iPhone as soon as they can.

PS. Can any­one tell me what unit of time JaJah’s rates are based on? The rates page hap­pily tells me that to call the US from my mobile will cost me 17.9 cents, but it doesn’t tell me what unit of time that rate is for — per sec­ond? Per 30 sec­onds? Per minute? I’m assum­ing it’s one of the lat­ter two options, but I have no idea which one. Either way though — is the billing per-second, or per-[30,60] sec­onds? I can’t find any­thing on the rates page, nor any­thing in their FAQ, that cov­ers this.

Update: Ques­tion 11/15 in the Billing sec­tion of the FAQ does answer part of this: JaJah bills in one-minute incre­ments. Still no word on whether the quoted rates are per-minute or some other unit though.

Baby, you’re the best

Why is it that the peo­ple who don’t have com­ments on their so-called blogs are the peo­ple I want to com­ment on the most often (I’m look­ing at you, Messrs Rum­ble and Palm­ber and Ms Gardiner)?

The lat­est com­ment I want to make, but can’t due to a bro­ken half-blog, is that it’s not The LJ Hooker Theme Song — it is, in fact, Nobody Does It Bet­ter, the theme song from the James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”.

I’m sure there’s a post in here about the annex­ing of pop­u­lar cul­ture by cor­po­rate greed, but I’m too pissed off at pseudo-blogs to write it. I’m sure there’s another post about the fact that between peo­ple who would most ben­e­fit from a few com­ments being the same peo­ple who refuse to accept said com­ments… but that the­ory is dis­proved by the fact that I allow com­ments, so I’m not going to attempt to write that one…

Schneier: still the voice of reason

I was going to linkblog about this, but I couldn’t find a way to sum­marise. Schneier is the only per­son I know who reg­u­larly speaks sense about secu­rity and related mat­ters (includ­ing, nat­u­rally, ter­ror­ism), and his Por­trait of the Mod­ern Ter­ror­ist as an Idiot is no exception.

The recently pub­li­cized ter­ror­ist plot to blow up John F. Kennedy Inter­na­tional Air­port, like so many of the ter­ror­ist plots over the past few years, is a study in alarmism and incom­pe­tence: on the part of the ter­ror­ists, our gov­ern­ment and the press.


The alleged plan, to blow up JFK’s fuel tanks and a small seg­ment of the 40-mile petro­leum pipeline that sup­plies the air­port, was ridicu­lous. The fuel tanks are thick-walled, mak­ing them hard to dam­age. The air­port tanks are sep­a­rated from the pipelines by cut­off valves, so even if a fire broke out at the tanks, it would not back up into the pipelines. And the pipeline couldn’t blow up in any case, since there’s no oxy­gen to aid com­bus­tion. Not that the ter­ror­ists ever got to the stage — or demon­strated that they could get there — where they actu­ally obtained explo­sives. Or even a cur­rent map of the airport’s infrastructure.

But read what Rus­sell Defre­itas, the lead ter­ror­ist, had to say: “Any­time you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurt­ful thing to the United States. To hit John F. Kennedy, wow.… They love JFK — he’s like the man. If you hit that, the whole coun­try will be in mourn­ing. It’s like you can kill the man twice.”

If these are the ter­ror­ists we’re fight­ing, we’ve got a pretty incom­pe­tent enemy.

You couldn’t tell that from the press reports, though. “The dev­as­ta­tion that would be caused had this plot suc­ceeded is just unthink­able,” U.S. Attor­ney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news con­fer­ence, call­ing it “one of the most chill­ing plots imag­in­able.” Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) added, “It had the poten­tial to be another 9/11.”

These peo­ple are just as deluded as Defreitas.

Go and read the whole thing.

Safari, font rendering, and why it’s not likely to change

also known as: stat­ing the obvi­ous thing that no-one seems to have said yet.

I’m famous for that. Appar­ently some peo­ple grow up learn­ing about things like “tact” and “secrets”, things my par­ents for­got to tell me about.


I’ve seen lots of sto­ries about how Apple releas­ing Safari on Win­dows has noth­ing to do with end users, noth­ing to do with tak­ing mar­ket share from Mozilla or IE. Rather, it’s about let­ting Windows-based devel­op­ers test their sites in Safari — and more impor­tantly, let­ting them test their iPhone apps — with­out need­ing to run a Mac.

I can’t find the arti­cle that best expresses this, but Ars Tech­nica does a decent job of sum­ming it up:

Even if the Win­dows ver­sions of Safari don’t gain any sig­nif­i­cant trac­tion, [it] should at least offer devel­op­ers a chance to test their wares with­out hav­ing to invest in a Mac.

There have also been a slew of arti­cles about Safari’s ren­der­ing of fonts: every­thing from Joel Spolsky’s detailed look to Michael S. Kaplan’s mus­ings about whether they’ll switch to using Uniscribe/ClearType. Most of these arti­cles seem to imply that, given it’s run­ning on Win­dows, Safari ought to con­form to Win­dows stan­dards — ie, use Uniscribe/ClearType.

What I haven’t seen is an arti­cle that links both of these thoughts:

* Apple chose to have Safari do its own font rendering

* Apple want Safari to be a test-bed for iPhone apps.

I don’t think Apple are going to be switch­ing to using Win­dows stan­dard ren­der­ing meth­ods any time soon. If they wanted to make a seri­ous pitch at steal­ing mar­ket share from the dom­i­nant browsers, they would. How­ever, that doesn’t seem to be their intent: they seem to be much more focussed on pro­vid­ing a test plat­form. If they pro­vide a test plat­form that ren­ders dif­fer­ently from the iPhone, it becomes a use­less test plat­form. Who wants to use an app that’s 15 pix­els wider than the iPhone screen? Who wants to hear the devel­oper say­ing “But it ren­dered just per­fectly on Win­dows, the iPhone must be broken!”

No. Apple are going to stick with their own ren­der­ing in Safari, so that they can ensure apps tested in Safari on Win­dows look iden­ti­cal to the same app run­ning on the iPhone.

Well, that’s my the­ory, anyway.

urltea — shark jumped. was cre­ated to fix a defi­ciency Chris Pir­illo saw in (sorry, I can’t find the orig­i­nal twits — can any­one else dig them up?).

As urltea’s about page says:

Chris Pir­illo twit­tered his frus­tra­tion at TinyURLs not being ‘pretty’ or ‘seman­tic’ when he posted them into Twit­ter, ie, it wasn’t obvi­ous what was behind them.



The great thing about this though was you could add as much descrip­tion as you cared, but if it got cut short (ie, by Twitter’s 140 char­ac­ter limit), the url would still func­tion prop­erly, as long as every­thing before the ques­tion mark was intact.

(:s indi­cate snip­page by me)

So why is it that the only per­son I ever see using is Chris Pir­illo — and even *he* doesn’t use the one fea­ture dis­tin­guishes url­tea from tinyurl?

 Spark Plugs vs Pulse Plugs    09:31 PM June 10, 2007  from web

Pac Man: A Classic 08:31 PM June 10, 2007 from web

Pac Man Fever! 08:00 PM June 10, 2007 from web

Best Firewall for Internet Security 07:01 PM June 10, 2007 from web

Best Windows firewall? Comodo Firewall Pro : 05:57 PM June 10, 2007 from web

Mac Pro Subtotal: $6,869.00 - OH, HELL NO! Not without a sponsor or two... no way. I ain't switching. Forget it. 12:26 AM June 10, 2007 from web

The Best Podcasting Client for Windows? 06:38 PM June 09, 2007 from web

I Heart Xara3d: 06:09 PM June 09, 2007 from web

MY SCANNER FINALLY WORKS IN WNIDOWS VISTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 05:12 PM June 09, 2007 from web

The Funniest YouTube vid I've ever seen (NOT mine): 04:01 PM June 09, 2007 from web

Oh wait — there’s two uses of tinyurl in there. I guess it’s not so bad after all.

What’s my point? Good ques­tion. I don’t really have a point: I just think that it’s amus­ing that some­thing cre­ated solely to fill one person’s per­ceived lack of a sin­gle fea­ture in an exist­ing prod­uct — is now pri­mar­ily used by that per­son in a way that doesn’t use that sin­gle fea­ture, and could just as eas­ily be served by the old product.

Just like a captcha, only more broken.

If you’re one of the few peo­ple who has ever felt the urge to com­ment here, you’ll prob­a­bly have noticed that I don’t have a captcha here. I used to, but haven’t had one for ages.

You’ll also have prob­a­bly noticed the amaz­ing amount of spam com­ments I get. Look at them, all of them!

That about sums up my feel­ings on captchas: they’re use­less. They’re not needed to pre­vent spam­bots, and they get in the way of real peo­ple. Some of them are par­tic­u­larly bad — about 1/4 of the time, I can’t read the captcha and get flagged as a bot.

Well, now there’s an even more stu­pid and less reli­able way to detect bots, devel­oped by Microsoft:Ani­mal Species Image Recog­ni­tion for Restrict­ing Access.

There’s a demo on that site. I fail at least half the time. Useful!

I’m lisp

Firefox tab close button jiggers: user configurable.

Dear Mike Elgan,

With pre­vi­ous ver­sions of Fire­fox, you could just posi­tion your mouse pointer on the close box and close large num­bers of tabs by sim­ply click­ing. Now, with the new ver­sion, you’ve got to slowly hunt and peck your way to clos­ing Tabs — just like IE

You might be inter­ested in the browser.tabs.closeButtons pref­er­ence. I believe you want to set it to 3.

Exten­sions such as Tab­Mix­Plus may also be of inter­est to you; as well as pro­vid­ing a gui for this (I haven’t checked, but I’d be shocked if they didn’t), they make vis­i­ble a whole host of other func­tion­al­ity hid­den inside firefox.

Thanks for your lit­tle rant though, it was amus­ing. I’m curi­ous about why the pref­er­ence seems to have changed value when you upgraded though — if you can repro­duce it, it sounds like it would be worth fil­ing a bug report about.


(note to self: before writ­ing posts like this, check the responses to see the thou­sands of other peo­ple telling him to do the same).