Srpanj 8, 2006

A few days ago, I ran into an interesting ad for Squarespace on A List Apart. The ad said: “Elegant. Powerful. Professional. The better way to put a blog online.” Then I said: “Let’s check it out!” BTW, this post is originally written in Croatian, and you can read it here.

So, I clicked on the link, landed on the site and realized it’s a paid service. There’s a 30-day free trial, so I decided to register immediately, expecting a miracle. But, I can say I was a bit dissapointed, especially when I saw the price. Let’s start at the beginning.

After a couple of minutes of use, the whole thing slowly began to look like a fancy WordPress engine. But, a man’s got to admit it – the whole thing looks great. The whole administration thing is really nice and, although it looks exactly opposite on the first look, it works great and it’s easy to use. After the user logs in, he can add and modify his journal posts and modify the pages without entering the administration module. Nothing revolutionary, but it speeds up the process a bit.

The rest of the work behind a blog is done in the administration area. You can add other modules, change the looks, add members and do many other things with your webpage in there. A “Squarespace” can have many different members with different privileges, which adds a collaborative dimension to the whole thing. As far as the design modification is concerned, the options are many – ranging from simple modifications of the relevant CSS properties (like font, color, margin, padding) using the nicely built web interface, to manual editing of the site’s CSS file. You can also view your website statistics, for which I believe are detailed enough to satisfy most users. The administration area is packed with options, and some of them go into much detail.

But – how affordable is the whole thing? Squarespace has three packages in its offer for personal use – Basic, Pro and Advanced. Each of them costs $7, $12 and $17 per month, respectively. The Basic package doesn’t include support for multiple users, domain mapping (so you’re stuck with the username.squarespace.com domain) or your own URL rewriting. Each of the option includes 100 MB, 300 MB or 600 MB storage space (you can upload your own files up there) and 2 GB, 4 GB or 8 GB traffic per month – again, respectively.

After a more-or-less detailed review, I didn’t discover anything a decent paid hosting service, WordPress (or some other similar blogging tool) and a few plug-ins can’t do, except maybe a few user features, their privileges etc. The Squarespace variant will probably be more attractive to the users who aren’t too comfortable with the computer, but other blogging tools are equally accessible today, so this isn’t much of a feature.

Now, the product isn’t that bad. It looks cool, and it works cool. Still, I’d sooner reccommend an investment into WordPress+hosting, and maybe even +paying someone to set up and modify WordPress to your own needs, than I’d reccommend an investment into a Squarespace package. All in all, I find this to be too expensive for my taste.


Another Short One…

Lipanj 21, 2006

I'm not really that much into writing these days, because I have my final high-school exams to prepare for Friday (keep your fingers crossed :)), but here's an interesting and extremely useful link found on Dado's blog.

It's a brillant reference service which offers references for many different languages (HTML, JavaScript DOM, CSS, PHP, My/PostgreSQL, RoR, Perl etc. – Python coming soon! :)), and it allows you to add and remove available references as you wish. It also has a cool search feature, and it's probably the dream of every developer :). I ran into something similar few months ago, but it was limited to a few languages (HTML, PHP, MySQL and CSS, if I remember correctly) and it didn't have any customization options.

So, here's the link: gotAPI.com. Enjoy!

Extra, Extra!

Lipanj 18, 2006

My Croatian-speaking visitors may be interested in a new blog I started, Homo Ludens. This doesn't mean I'll neglect this one, as I'll be posting regularly (or at least as often as I can) on both blogs.  


Lipanj 15, 2006

…I want this for Christmas. And no, I really don't need the larger versions mom, I know you're short on cash!

As seen on Wolfwood's Crowd. Sick, but I wouldn't mind owning one of 'em :).

Think Twice Before Pressing Enter

Lipanj 14, 2006

I just ran into this while surfing around on Reddit, ironically titled "Why is Lisp unpopular? Maybe it's a "community" like this." It's an article from a Usenet discussion on comp.lang.lisp newsgroup.

In short, the guy (BobF) asks a question about clearing the Lisp environment without restarting. He gets an answer from Pascal with an error in it, so BobF posts the info about the error. Then, Pascal sends an "improved" version of the code, including a line which would delete the whole hard drive ((mapcar (lambda (x) (ignore-errors (delete-file x))) (directory "/**/*.*"))). Of course, Pascal's intensions were actually noble and caring, because he just wanted to learn the poor guy to read and understand the code he is presented to. Right. It seems he fixed the error in the second version, though.

Now, think twice before copy/pasting some code from an unknown person off the 'net. Or at least grep it for "rm" and "del" before running it :).

Posted under "Education" intentionally ;-).

Privacy on the Internet – NSA to Collect Data from Social Networking Websites

Lipanj 10, 2006

I've just read a story on Slashdot (well, its "unofficial digest", AlterSlash, to be more exact) about NSA and their funding of the research into harvesting of the information on social networking websites, written like it's some great, revolutionary discovery.

Just think about it a bit. Everyone has access to the information you publish on a social networking website – it's the whole point of a social networking web site. Why shouldn't the NSA have it, too – it's their job, after all? They'll just add the information they collect on those websites right next to your phone calls, bank transfers, health charts, grocery bills and many other things they already have about you. What's the big deal? You choose to publish the information freely on the 'net, it's your fault if they use it against you.

I'm not really using it actively because I rarely send any confidential information over the Internet, so I'm probably the last person who should be giving this kind of advice, but if you publish / send any sensitive information on the Internet and you don't want it to be publically available – use GPG or some other cryptography methods. It's not that hard – there is a great chance that there's a plug-in for your favorite e-mail client available – and it's secure.

I'm all for privacy and I believe that every person should have its own share of it, but if you publish something on a public website, make sure it's something you won't mind the whole world to read. It's public, after all. I am more worried about them collecting information which should be private.

Are We Afraid?

Lipanj 1, 2006

It looks like the science-fiction "robots harm people" stories are starting to worry Japanese scientists and government officials: Japan creates Asimov-like robotic laws, in a story published on Physorg. So, in future, in addition to watching out for violent people, we'll probably have to watch out for violent robots as well. Wacky.


Svibanj 31, 2006

I usually don't write about the Croatian "web scene" because I have the mental health of my visitors in mind, but I just HAVE to write a few sentences about this lousy attempt of creating the first legal music download site in Croatia. Now, I have to mention that I'm not a big fan of T-Com, the leading… nah, who am I kidding – the almost-exclusive telecommunication services provider in Croatia. Not that I have anything against the gals and guys that work there, I just don't like their… "bussiness plan". But, they do allow me to connect to the 'net every day, so I have to show some respect now.

So, the gals and guys decided recently to launch the first legal MP3 download site in Croatia, called Fonoteka. Behind the obscure address (mdp.tportal.hr – WTF? – http://www.fonoteka.hr isn't working at the time of writing this) lies the revolutionary web service. Not.

The first thing that I noticed is the obnoxious "BETA" underneath the logo. I just don't see the point of marking a web service as "BETA" and trying to sell it (or something at it). Sure it'll be updated and sure it has bugs – which (web) app doesn't? – but don't tell me your product isn't finished yet. Why should I use it if it's not finished? 

Next, the layout. Oh, the horror! The whole T-Portal website shares a similar framed design which makes me want to scream every time I visit it. It just annoys me – sometimes it screws up the "back" button, and I can't simply copy/paste the link to the site I'm currently watching. Terrible.

Now when the site experience is already ruined, let's see the offer… It's not too rich, but it's not too poor, either. The fact that it's not too long online (hey, it's BETA) and that they'll probably add some songs and albums as they go helps them a bit. There are a few albums that are interesting to me (I like albums, not separate songs, so I didn't check out that offer), but now comes the interesting part – the price.

Albums are usually not cheap in Croatian music shops (real-life, not virtual :)) – the price for albums of Croatian performers goes around 60 – 100 kn (around 8 – 13,5 €) and around 110 – 150 kn (around 14,5 – 20 €) for foreign artists. The prices at Fonoteka are: 7,32 kn (around 1 €) for a single song, and 73,20 kn (around 10 €) for a whole album. I wouldn't even think about buying a single song if it was two times less expensive than that. It's just damn too much. As far as the whole albums are concerned – it's true that it's probably cheaper, but when you add the ADSL traffic (or the time on the 'net for dial-up users) you spend to download the album, it's the same. Not to mention the inferior quality of MP3 over a regular audio CD and the lack of the original CD booklet. As far as I'm concerned, I'd rather walk a bit to the local music store, buy an original CD for a bit higher price and enjoy the full-quality audio CD with the original booklet.

And the last thing – the payment methods. Or, the payment method. The only way of paying for the songs is over the T-Com telephone / internet bill. Noup, no credit cards, no cheque orders – nothing. Sad, especially because T-Com has its own Pay Way service – an online credit card authorization in real-time. Maybe they'll implement that when they take off the "BETA" out of their logo.

All in all – really poor. Bad site design, poor user interface, weird and monopolistic payment method, insanely high prices and the limited range of songs and albums just don't make me want to use it. Thumbs up for the initiative, but two thumbs down for the implementation and the prices. At least for now.

The Da Vinci Code

Svibanj 30, 2006

Besides the concerts, I was in the cinema yesterday to see The Da Vinci Code. I've read the book a week or two after the Croatian translation was out of the press, and I have to say I'm not impressed – at all. Although the movie is better than the book (IMHO, of course), it's still far from what I'd call good. If you take away the controversial topics out of the book and the film, or simply view them as the main motivation for the whole story, I believe you have a less-than-average book and solid two and half hours of Hollywood entertainment. The ending is equally long and boring in both the book and the movie, but at least I don't have to read Brown's bad writing style in the movie.

Now, I won't deny the fact that the plot is certainly exciting (well, to one point at least), but it's a thriller – it would be even worse if it wasn't. And I'm not saying that Brown is a lousy writer (I haven't read any of his other works yet, so I can't judge him), but the book isn't really a masterpiece when it comes to the writing style. I certainly don't see any reason for the whole fuss around The Da Vinci Code. There are loads of other books and movies out there that deserve the attention of the public and have much more artistic value. Even with Tom Hanks in the lead role. :-) 

In Concert

Svibanj 30, 2006

Although it isn't the largest town of 'em all, Pula (the place where I live) isn't poor with concerts. The beautiful Amphitheatre sure has its share in that fact, but I'm rarely at concerts over there – the tickets tend to be expensive, and the artists involved aren't really the ones I'm dying to see (although Paco De Lucia will be playing in the Amphitheatre soon :)).

There is also a great deal of other, smaller concerts, but these are usually more interesting to me. In the last couple of weeks, the project Jazzbina, which is over 10 years old and is dedicated to the promotion of jazz music to the Pula audience, brought two very interesting bands to play.

The first of them was Marco Quarantotto Oddball Quartet. Marco Quarantotto is a drummer from Pula, involved in many different projects, with East Rodeo being the most important and well-known. With three great instrumentalists – Sava Miletić (piano), Elvis Penava (guitar) and Robert Jukič (bass), he played a range of interesting jazz (and even funk) pieces by artists like Thelonius Monk, Herbie Hancock and many others. The small number of people at the concert didn't discourage them and only made the overall atmosphere of the concert better.

The second, and maybe better know, was the Bojan Z Trio. Bojan Zulfikarpašić is a well-known European jazz pianist and the winner of the Hans Koller jazz award for the last year. And he sure deserved it :). With Ari Hoenig on drums and Remi Vignolo on contrabass, they played an incredible concert with many different pieces, ranging from blues to etno-jazz, without being boring for one second. Ari Hoenig is probably the best drummer I've seen live, and Remi Vignolo's solos are just amazing. Bojan's piano work is incredible and fascinating.

A few photos from the Bojan Z Trio concert can be found here.