Marvel Digital Comics

14. February, 2011

I’m a huge comic fan, spending usually $100 each month on buying them. So when I found the Marvel app for Chrome, I gave it a whirl.

Unfortunately, the experience could be better. The comic reader is implemented in Adobe flash. That’s not a problem as such, only the implementation sucks.

The reader has three modes: Single page, double page and “smart”. There is a reason for the quotes …

In single and double page mode, the print is too small to read on my screen when I can see the whole page (it’s only 1920×1080; portrait mode would work better I guess). So I have to zoom in. But when I zoom in, navigation becomes a chore. The cursor keys don’t repeat. They scroll the page by about 10 pixels. At a readable zoom, I have to press the keys about 100 times to scroll to the bottom.

For every page of the comic. That’s 3,737 keys pressed to read a 37 page comic. Useless.

“Smart mode” to the rescue. In smart mode scrolls cursor left moves to the next unread part of the page. There are only two zoom levels which I call “too small to read” and “cut off balloons mode”. If you’re lucky, you get three panels on a row, and you have to remember the text of all of them so you can finish understanding what everyone says when you can see the bottom half.

So when reading the demo comics, I find myself often grabbing the scroll bars and adjust the screen position just a little. A nag but it works, I guess.

Recommendation: I can live with it.


New Way of Testing Pupils

13. February, 2011

Remember the horror of tests at school? The attempts to prepare, the insanely short hours of the test itself, the dreading wait for the results.

In Switzerland, pupils in the 8th grade can take a “Stellwerk Test” which works a little bit different. It’s a web based test. Instead of presenting all pupils the same questions, everyone gets different ones. Depending on the answers (correct or wrong), the program will select a more simple or more difficult question. After a while, this selection process will level out. At that point, it’s possible to calculate the level of understanding that each individual pupil has on the topic.

Unlike traditional tests, it doesn’t matter (much) if you can’t answer a question. Also, the leveling out is individual. Some pupils can finish the test in 30 minutes, others need 2 hours. That doesn’t mean the “slow” pupils are dumber; their understanding is just more “uneven”. That means the test is more fair than the traditional tests. Teachers also don’t have to come up with genuine questions every year (or make sure the questions can be kept confidential if they always use the same ones). Stealing the tests in advance doesn’t get you an advantage.

Makes me wonder when this kind of test can be used for more than math and physics. Not every school can afford a super computer like the one necessary to run Watson. Not yet.

Russia Abolishes Winter Time

10. February, 2011

Just saw this: Russia frozen in time by plan to brighten the bleakest winter

It’s just odd that they get rid of winter time (which is the one that our bodies are used to; in winter time, the sun is highest at noon).

I also vote for getting rid of “daylight saving time.” It always takes me two weeks to get used to the new time and I’m sure I’m not alone. On top of that, it costs millions to do it every year. Let’s admit the mistake, and get rid of this foolishness.

Stupid Ideas Revisited

9. February, 2011

Ever had a stupid idea? One which would instantly trigger the “that’ll never work. Ever.” response?

Did you withstand or gave you in?

Maybe it’s time to give stupid ideas more leeway. During my holidays, I started to think about a stupid idea. Really stupid. But this post is not about the idea, it’s about stupid ideas in general. Let’s look at a famous one: Christopher Columbus believed that the world was much smaller than everyone else.

So when everyone else set out eastward for India and fortunes in spices, little Christopher thought: Let’s take the shortcut. I’ll go west, land must be 4’000km away tops.

Of course, he was wrong. Earth was much bigger than he believed. But he wasn’t completely wrong: There was land. America.

So if he hadn’t pursued his stupid idea, one of the world’s largest economies wouldn’t exist. Millions of Indians wouldn’t have been slaughtered. Europe wouldn’t have made a fortune by selling slaves. The GIs wouldn’t have stopped the killing of millions by the Nazis. The Vietnam War wouldn’t have happened. Neil Armstrong wouldn’t have been to the moon. B. Obama wouldn’t have been elected 44th President.

A stupid idea can change the world.

Tired of Being Tracked?

9. February, 2011

If you don’t want to be tracked by online advertising companies, there is a site where you can opt-out:

That doesn’t stop ads and spam, it just stops the companies from tracking your movements through the web.

Note that I couldn’t opt-out of more than roughly half of the networks; the other half simply ignores my selection. Not sure why that is; I’m suing FF 4 and I can’t find an option to allow third party cookies anymore.

Sony cracks down on Geohot

7. February, 2011

In an insane attempt to stop the world, Sony has sued George “Geohot” Hotz. Some comments on this:

The court has granted Sony’s request for TRO. In the document, the court rules: “… Hotz shall … preserve, and not destroy, erase, delete, dispose of, or alter any documents or records, … that relate to … the Circumvention Devices, or any communications with any party concerning the manufacture, …” (page 3, 12-22).

Hm … since Geohot distributed that information via his website and the “any party” is the world, doesn’t that mean he must not take the information down? Since taking down the information would mean to alter his homepage which the court ruling strictly forbids …

Or as Dan Gillmor found in his blog post: “Given that the research results Sony presumably cares about are available online, granting the order would mean that everyone except the researchers themselves would have access to their work.”

It’s interesting to see that the people, who turned the justice system into what it is today, starting to strangle themselves into it.

“Beware not to lose the war by winning it”
Haul monk to Forne Rako

Mass Effect 2 for PS3

6. February, 2011

I started playing Mass Effect 2 for the PS3. Nice game.

Dear EA: Console users want to play, not listen 1 hour for an installer to scrub the game disk with the read/write head. Hint: Other games show an elaborate intro while installing, not instead of installing.

Also, there is no turbo in the elevator; loading times in the ship itself could be much better. Fortunately, running around in the ship is only necessary in the early stages of the game.

Collecting shady individuals from all over the galaxy and poking planets for resources is quite some fun; I just wish the shooting sequences were not so dominant. Luckily, that seems to get better later in the game where you can roam space stations, break into walk-in safes of criminals, etc.

All in all, quite some fun.

OpenID Broken on [Updated]

1. February, 2011

If you’re trying to use your blog to login to some site via OpenID, you’ll see this error:

Unable to log in with your OpenID provider:

Cannot decode Key-Value Form because a line was found without a ':' character. (line 3: '<head>') 

See also:

[Update] According to the WP support “We have corrected a glitch and the problem should no longer be occurring.”

At least for me, it works again.

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