“Her” Lack of Ads

Photo: Warner Bros.

Photo: Warner Bros.

Had the pleasure of watching Spike Jonze’s Her this weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed it. One thing that struck me though was the complete lack of ads in the interactions between Theo and Samantha. I guess I’m just so used to the presence of ads often getting in the way ¬†of our interaction with technology nowadays that it was a refreshing notion.

When asked what her name was, imagine if Samantha instead answered, “I’d like to get a couple of things out of the way first – would you like me to install the ask.com toolbar? It enables quick access to ask.com’s wealth of answers from any page in your browser. I will start the installation unless you tell me not to within the next 3 seconds” (in a completely unnatural voice since she’s reading from a script, and as an AI she knows it’s usually not in the user’s best interest to install it), at which point Theo will proceed to say “No, no, please don’t!”

Or if she started spewing out deal after vacation deal once she found out Theo wanted to take her on a surprise vacation.

If any part of Samantha’s services were to be subsidized by ads, I would think it a much better experience if the user were unaware of them. For example, when Samantha was picking out the pink dress for Theo’s niece, she could give a slight edge to one of her sponsors’ stores, along with taking into account the item preferences Theo told her. (Of course this wouldn’t work so well in non-affiliate situations, not to mention the privacy implications)

This thought exercise really goes to show that straight-up audio and video ads (along with full-page obstructive visual ads) are the worst kind because the entire interaction is halted to make way for the ad. The pre-video Youtube ads and the jarring Pandora ads between songs are the bane of the universe and nobody likes them. It would be all the more worse if they “popped-up” in an otherwise completely human conversation.

Either ways, I await how the worlds of advertising, pervasive conversational tech, and AI will mingle when such a combination becomes reality. I sincerely hope we’ll have come up with better ways for getting ahold of our eyeballs and ears then.

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Vagrant installer for Graphite on Debian Squeeze 32-bit

Wrote a simple Vagrant installer for Graphite on a Debian Squeeze 32-bit image: https://github.com/suan/graphite_up

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RIM and Facebook, the Irony

A lot has been said in recent times about RIM’s struggles, the company behind Blackberry, and it seems things have really come to a head today with stories about their CTO resigning and high-level staff being laid off being on HN’s front page on the same day.

I thought then that this was a perfect time to share a related encounter I had with the company.

I attended a RIM info session in 2009 when I was a student at Purdue. This was when the iPhone 3G had been around for a while, and Android phones were already on the scene.

There were 2 or 3 RIM representatives in a small lecture room, and the marketing-type one started off the session by¬†explaining¬†how one of the interns in their previous batch came up with the idea to create a Blackberry Facebook app and proceeded to work on it. She then went on to say something along the lines of how they needed fresh, young people like us to create products for them in this new world of social networking that they weren’t familiar with.

I immediately thought, “What? There wasn’t already a Blackberry Facebook app? And they had to have an intern suggest the idea to them? Don’t they realize what Facebook is and what it’s becoming?”

Interestingly enough, at the end of the session I happened to win the Blackberry Storm that they were raffling off. I left the room with the new phone box in hand as another student was having a lively discussion with one of their engineers about J2ME.

A few weeks later I sold the phone. On Facebook.

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Passable Alternative to Google’s Realtime Search

TL;DR: Use kurrently.com

When it was still up, I used to enjoy scanning Google’s realtime search to see what others were thinking about such as when the Bears’ Offensive Line was non-existent. Alas, Google has since shut down the service, saying that they will bring it back, but without providing a date.

After tonight’s horrid Bears performance, I set out looking for a Google Realtime alternative. After going through many services including Topsy, WhosTalkin, and Bing Social, one thing that irked me was that none of them have the “auto-refresh” feature that Google Realtime had.

Finally I tried kurrently.com and was relatively pleased – it had auto-refresh, covered Twitter and Facebook, and had a passable (though not exactly pretty) interface. One thing it did lack was any form of analytics or graphs, but those never really mattered to me. So, give it a shot if you’re looking for your realtime fix.

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make_dropdown Mouse and Mobile/Touch friendly jQuery drop down menu plugin

Hover-based drop down menus are a great solution when you’re short on space in your layouts, and are used all over the web. But what about mobile devices though? Everything goes out the door when you rely solely on hover effects.

There doesn’t seem to be many solutions out there that take care of this, so I’ve created a jQuery plugin called make_dropdown, which is basically a mobile (or touch)-friendly extension of SpiceBrain’s “jQuery Simple Drop-Down Menu”. By using this plugin, your menu will be activated both when hovered and clicked; but if a mobile, touch-based browser is detected it will only be activated when tapped, ensuring that your mobile users get a good experience.

I’m using it on this very site. You can get the code and learn more about it on github, or view a complete demo.

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Fleapy: No-Nonsense Cheap Flight Hunting

IMO, entrepreneurship and the desire to make stuff are sorely lacking even among college CS students, that’s why I’m always excited to see my peers launching products and businesses.¬†A while ago some Purdue students¬†created Fleapy, a website which finds the cheapest Air Asia flights. (Don’t ask me how they came up with that random name though, God knows decent, available, 6-character and below domain names are hard to come by these days)

I played with it a bit myself, and was pretty impressed – its simple, well-made and does its job well. Its best used when you’re dead set on getting the cheapest fares possible, and are flexible on which dates/times you actually fly. Really, just a couple of clicks and you’ll be taken to the actual Air Asia page to book your flight – no sign-in required! Here are some screenshots:

Hopefully Fleapy takes off – its a good example of home-grown entrepreneurship, and it shows that there is space for new ideas, even in the Malaysian market. So whether you’re looking to book a flight right now or sometime in the future, check it out!

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We Have Moved!

I’ve been itching to blog lately, and so I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the last few weeks integrating my blog which used to be at http://horusss2.wordpress.com into suanaikyeo.com. Its my first time self-hosting wordpress and doing any theming at all, so it might still be rough around the edges. Please do let me know if you notice anything weird, broken, or if there’s any missing functionality that you’d like to see. Apart from that, look forward to some new posts!

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Using Perforce merge tool (p4merge) with git on Cygwin

This guide will show you how to setup the Perforce merge tool (p4merge) as your default git mergetool on Cygwin.

  1. Download the Perforce client (p4v) from here. (Go to Clients > Visual Merge Tool, and download the appropriate installer for your machine)
  2. Perform the installation, making sure that you only check the merge tool component and cross out all other components
  3. (This step is optional)
    Open up cygwin, and create a symlink to p4merge by doing:

    ln -s /cygdrive/c/Program Files/Perforce/p4merge.exe /usr/bin/p4merge

    (modify the target path if you installed Perforce in a non-default folder). This way, you can open up p4merge anytime in Cygwin simply by typing “p4merge”

  4. Add the following lines to your ~/.gitconfig in Cygwin using your preferred text editor:

    [merge]
    tool = p4merge
    [mergetool "p4merge"]
    path = c:/Program Files/Perforce/p4merge.exe
    trustExitCode = true

    Again, edit the path if you used a non-default Perforce install path.

  5. Save and exit the file. If you have pending merges in the current git tree and you type git mergetool, voila, your merge will be done using the very user-friendly p4merge.
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jQuery 1.3.2 from GoogleAPIs would not load in Firefox

GoogleAPI’s hosting of jQuery 1.3.2 didn’t load on Firefox for me today, but was fine on IE8 and Chrome. Specifically this link: http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.3.2/jquery.min.js would result in a “Firefox could not find the file at…” page. Surprisingly, all other versions of jQuery that they are hosting were working. Clearing my FF cache seemed to solve this. Wonder what was the actual problem?

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