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Solve the Da Vinci Code

Are you the Robert Langdon of generation web? If so, leave the real-world Catholic church alone for a few seconds and go pursue the Google Da Vinci Code Quest.

Even the Poorhouse couldn't write a more over-dramatic description of it than Google did, so in their words: "The quest, which began April 17th requires skill, intellect, and perseverance. Over a span of 24 days ending May 11th, you will encounter unique challenges. These daily puzzles will pull you deeper into the world of The Da Vinci Code. Answer all 24 puzzles correctly for a chance to win untold riches. Only the worthy will prevail."

Untold riches eh?

Reduce web irritation: Mailinator and Bugmenot

Heavens above, more ways to avoid web and email irritation. The Poorhouse is most frustrated when, before viewing some web page or downloading a file where the content is free and open to the public, your email address is demanded. Worse yet when you can't just type nonsense in as you then have to go check it in order to click on a link to confirm you are a real person - who can be sent adverts for Viagra.

It is often acceptable to demand some confirmation that you actually exist and are contactable in circumstances where you are going to be publishing content or paying money (for instance a web forum, or subscriber-only content) but for idle browsing it is just downright irritating to have to fill in a form, go check your email and so on for ostensibly no good reason - other than to let the site owner have your email address so they can email you "special offers" and the like.

Winmail.dat annoyances

Ever received a mostly-blank email that contained an attachment called "winmail.dat"? Or maybe you sent one and cursed the foolish recipient for gibbering on about some winmail.dat file when you know you didn't attach such a thing.

If so, no hallucinations necessarily took part in that experience. It's another treat from the Microsoft guys. On occasions Microsoft Outlook will try and send the message all nice and pretty in some weird-ass Microsoft Transport Neutral Encapsulation Format (MS-TNEF) that not much else understands. This is an attempt to convey formatting information such as fonts, colours and all the rest of the modern jiggery-pokery that largely is a distraction from the actual content of the email. If the recipient's program doesn't understand what MS-TNEF is (i.e. it isn't Outlook) that the formatted version comes as an attachment called winmail.dat. No big deal - except that if you have deliberately attached a file to the email (e.g. a PDF file, a Word file and so on) then that is also hidden inside the MS-TNEF winmail.dat file and as such any programs that don't do the MS-TNEF malarkey can't even see the attached file, let alone open it.

EXTREME pumpkinery

That looks soreThat looks sore"Pumpkin carving at it's wildest!" Bold claim - but the guys from ExtremePumpkins.com are probably not far wrong. Irate that these days grotty little kids carve lame old smiles into the big old round fruit, Tom from Extreme Pumpkins is determined to extremify the age-old craft back into the hands of adults.

Go visit his site for info on how to design and implement some sick 'n' twisted pumpkin designs to horrify the neighbours and mentally scar children. In his words: "You aren't a girl scout so why are you still carving your pumpkins the way they do?"

Faffing around - the British way of life

Britons be proud! We may not be so good at pointless tasks like propelling inflated balls into wood-framed nets and the like, but when shoved in front of the magic glowy-box-with-keyboard, we know how to make "best use" of the time that the evil machinations of capitalist slavery force us to sit at our office desk. According to a survey done by Tickbox, and interpreted in an article by The Register, the British lead the world in the sheer amount of faffing around on the Internet when they are being paid to do…well…whatever it is you're supposed to do in an office.

Feed the starving artist

Nice pearNice pearThe Poorhouse is as proud as 12 peacocks prancing to be associated with Tess' (web) portfolio. We would greatly appreciate it if any wealthy (UK) graphic design bosses would like to pay her a pile of money without supervising her work too closely. With both education and a history of employment on show, how could it possibly be the wrong thing to do? She may not speak her vowels quite correctly what with heralding from New Zealand - to be fair she can (mis)pronounce them in several languages - but then when was the last time a company went bust on that aspect alone?

The Poorhouse considers her CV far too self-modest with such talents as published Christmas card poetry going unsung. As a special bonus to entice you in there is a top quality flash game involving defending the earth somewhere on the site.

(Please note that any design deficiency on the site you are currently reading is in no way attributable to her.)

Greasy monkeys

Another wonder-feature Firefox web browser extension is Greasemonkey. This addon gives unprecedented power to web surfers, and could be the bane of their life to website authors.

The deal is this: when you go to read a web page, the Internet doesn't magically transmit a photo-esque lights and sound image to your computer for display. Rather it sends a bunch of boring code, mostly revolving around HTML. The web browser program on your computer reads this code and builds up the visual representation of the page to display to lucky you - the end user. So what? Well, there is nothing to stop you altering the code before it is displayed - which is exactly what this Greasemonkey does.

Money for old pixels

1/100000th of the Tew fortune1/100000th of the Tew fortuneLackadaisical investors be gutted! Near the beginning of 2006 your opportunity to own some pixels on the Million Dollar Homepage went away…because Alex Tew, aged a disgustingly young 21 or so, sold the final few pixels on said page, hence raising slightly more than an student-fantasy million dollars. Fear not though, other opportunities for squandering your money away on pretty much nothing continue to exist.

Mr Tew's premise was to have a page consisting of a million individual pixels, and charge advertisers (or, more accurately at first, family and friends) $1 per pixel until the grid was complete, guaranteeing that their advert would exist for at least five years. Of course it's a bit hard to see what's being advertised if they only buy a couple of pixels…but it worked for him, and it is something of a piece of net-art now. Rumour has it that it may be available in poster form soon - another entrepreneurial idea from the lucky lad.

Google warfare

We've all heard the stories of checking google for potential gossip on our nearest and dearest and so on, but now we can even find out what / who / which items are more important to the world, courtesy of Google Fight. Not part of "official" Google, and nothing you couldn't work out in 2 seconds by just using Google but somehow it is more fun to watch stick-men battle it out to see what has the most search results to it in Google and hence might be regarded more vital.

"Classics" given on the site include America vs Iraq, Pen vs Sword, George W. Bush vs Bin Laden and Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader.

Life without cron - how to automate your boring web-tasks

There's more to creating the cutting edge of elite websites than flashy graphics - thankfully. To keep a website in order there is sometimes call to repeat a task at certain intervals, for instance to make a backup, create a search index, or clear temporary files. People with their own servers or a decent level of access to shared servers often use the cron command to run things every day at 4am, or the first day of every month and so on rather than having to remember to run lots of boring scripts last thing at night. This is great - unless you don't have access to such things, or have to pay extra for them.

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