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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Twitter Bot: Magic 8 Ball

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

On the Weekend, Gary Jones from BlueFur (Twitter: bluefur) came up with the idea of a Twitter robot that would act as a Magic 8 Ball. He asked me if I wanted to help make it, I accepted, and development began.

What we came up with was a small script that would automatically reply with a Magic 8 Ball-type answer when it was “replied” to. To use it, all you have to do is write a “tweet” replying to magic_8ball with a yes or no question. Which would look like this “@magic_8ball <yes or no question>”.

This little “Twitter Bot” uses the Twitter API to receive the replies to it, and then send out replies with a randomly selected answer. We quickly found out that the Twitter API is quite restrictive. As outlined in Gary’s post, Twitter only allows 70 authenticated API requests an hour, which not only inconveniences developers while testing their Apps, but also users using Twitter Apps. Also, Twitter restricts API calls for replies and such to the latest 20, which can create quite a few problems.

We’ve decided to make this application Open Source, so that other developers looking to develop with the Twitter API can hopefully learn from our code. Feel feel to use, modify, hack and learn from this code to create your own Twitter Applications. The code is release under the GNU General Public License version 3 (or, at your option, any later version). You can get the code here (or in txt format here).

If you have any questions about the code, feel free to let me know.

I’m on Twitter under mattfreedman, feel free to follow me.

Google AdSense Phone Verification

Monday, January 28th, 2008

A got an email this morning from Google AdSense, saying that they’ve started requiring publishers to verify their phone number.

In an effort to protect the accounts of Google AdSense publishers, we’ve starting using automated telephone number verification to ensure that your information is accurate and up-to-date. As a result, you should see a Required Action on your Payment History Page to ‘Please verify your phone number’ after you log in to your account. To initiate this process, click the ‘Please verify your phone number’ link and follow the instructions.

Keep in mind that you have 6 months to enter the verification code. If you have not entered your verification code within 4 months, we’ll start displaying Public Service Ads (PSAs) on your web pages. If you have not entered your verification code within 6 months, your account will be disabled and any unpaid earnings will be refunded to the appropriate advertisers. You can learn more about our phone number verification process at .

For additional questions about getting paid, please visit . If you prefer a video presentation of this information, we encourage you to watch our Payment demo (currently available in English only), located at .


The Google AdSense Team

So, I logged into AdSense, and sure enough, there was the required action. It’s really quite a simple process. Just go to the page (it’ll say the required action under My Accounts > Payment History), choose when you want Google to phone you, and click continue. It’s an automated phone system that will call you. If you choose “Now” (like I did), you’ll literary be phoned within seconds. It’ll tell you to enter the number shown on the page, and hit the “pound” button, and that’s it. Then, when you’re finished the call, hit the continue button on that page, and you’re finished verifying your phone number. The call takes less than 20 seconds.

You might want to verify your phone number soon, otherwise your AdSense account could be disabled if you forget “to do it later”.

Apparently, I also have to enter a PIN they mail to me to…

Update [January 29, 2008]: The AdSense team’s blog has a post on the matter, explaining that they now require verification once you reach $10, instead of $50. Check it out here.

Book Three of Inheritance Cycle Title Announced

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

Brisingr CoverBack in October, I told you about how there would be a fourth book in the Inheritance Trilogy, making it the Inheritance Cycle.

Book One and Two were called Eragon and Eldest respectively. Before it was announced that there would be a fourth book, people speculated that Book Three would be called Empire, to follow the pattern of a six letter word, starting with an “E”. Well, three days ago, Christopher Paolini announced that Book Three would be called… Brisingr!

From the announcement:

I am pleased to tell you that the title of Book Three in the Inheritance cycle is Brisingr. Sometimes one’s first thought is best, and so it was with naming this book. After many months of trying to sum up a complex story in a single word, it struck me that I had had the name all along. For reasons that will become clear when you read Brisingr, this title is perfect.

Brisingr is an Old Norse word meaning “fire”, that is used throughout the Inheritance Cycle as part of the Ancient Language. Christopher Paolini explains:

Brisingr is an Old Norse word for “fire.” As you may remember, in Eragon, Brom uses the word brisingr to start a fire. This is the first time Eragon hears an ancient language word, a word of magic. Later, when Eragon is cornered by Urgals in Yazuac, he shouts “Brisingr!” to great effect (see Eragon—chapters “Revelation at Yazuac” and “Admonishments”).

Brisingr is still scheduled for release on September 20, 2008, and it can already be pre-ordered from the Random House store and Amazon.

The cover (top-left) is pretty sweet looking. That’s a nice looking gold dragon. You can see a larger version of the cover here.

You can visit the Inheritance Cycle website at

Internet Explorer 8 Passes the Acid2 Browser Test

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Last week (on December 12, 2007), the latest build of Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) successfully passed the Acid2 Browser Test, says the official IEBlog. If you’re unfamiliar with the Acid2 Test, basically it’s a test for browsers, that uses some valid and invalid CSS (and some (X)HTML, of course) to make a smiley face. It’s meant to test browsers for their support for handling valid and invalid code. Here’s how the Acid2 test is supposed to be rendered:

Acid2 Browser Test - Perfect Rendering

Here’s how the latest build of IE8 renders it:

Acid2 Browser Test - Internet Explorer 8 Rendering

For reference, here’s how IE7 renders it (click for larger view):

Acid2 Browser Test - Internet Explorer 7

Here’s how FireFox 2.0.11 renders it (click for larger view):

Acid2 Browser Test - FireFox 2.0.11

…And here’s how FireFox 3 Beta 2 Renders it:

Acid2 Browser Test - FireFox 3 Beta 2

Hopefully this is just the beginning of great changes coming in IE8.

Update [December 18, 2007 at 10:43 PM]: Apparently, the Acid2 test is broken since about today (so, IE8 did actually pass the working Acid2, as that screenshot was taken on December 12, 2007). So here’s how FireFox 3 Beta 2 renders the working copy of Acid2. (thanks Asa Dotzler for letting me know about this!)

Acid2 Browser Test (working copy) - FireFox 3 Beta 2

Having Problems with your HP Pavilion dv6000, dv9000 or Presario v6000 series Notebook?

Friday, December 14th, 2007

HPHP announced today that there may be hardware issues with some (not all) with their HP Pavilion dv6000 and dv9000, and their Compaq v6000 series notebooks. The symptoms that may occur are these:

  • The notebook does not detect wireless networks and the wireless adapter is not detected in the Device Manager.
  • The notebook has no power and no active LEDs.
  • The notebook does not start.
  • The battery charge indicator light does not turn on when the battery is installed and the AC adapter is connected.
  • The notebook issues a single beep during boot indicating no power.
  • There is no video on the computer LCD panel or external monitor.
  • The external monitor functions but there is no image on the notebook LCD panel.

If your Notebook is affected by any of these issues, and qualifies, HP will fix it for free (including shipping charges to and from them). If your warranty is over, they’ll still fix it if it’s within 1 year of the end of your warranty, they’ll also give you a 90-day warranty on the repair. If you warranty is still in effect, it will remain unchanged.

Full details, instructions for checking your BIOS version and updating it (if needed) and an FAQ can be found here. Please note, that this problem does not affect all notebooks within the model and serial number range.

I think it’s pretty cool of HP to fix affected notebooks even if they’re out of warranty.

There’s also a critical BIOS update that you should do (regardless of if your notebook is affected by these problems or not). Also, before sending your notebook into HP, be sure to backup all your data, as they’ll probably reset your laptop to the factory state (ie. all your data and programs gone, Vista fresh, and bloated with bloat-ware).

This actually happened to my sister’s laptop (Compaq Presario v6317ca), on either Friday or Saturday last week, the Wireless Adaptor stopped working. Windows could not find any networks, and the Wireless Adaptor was not showing up in the Device Manager. So, I tried reinstalling the Device Driver, but that didn’t fix it. So, I tried updating the BIOS to the latest version, and that failed to work too. I even opened up the HP Wireless Assistant, and even that didn’t see the Adaptor. I had determined that the Wireless Adaptor was not working because of hardware problems. So, I shot an email to HP, and they told me to do what I had done already (except, they also wanted me to recover the laptop to factory state, I didn’t want to do that), and said that if the problem persisted after trying those steps, to phone HP Technical Support and explain the problem to them. I decided to try Live Chat first. I explained the problem, and what I did to troubleshoot and attempt to fix it. They were ready to setup the warranty service, but then they realize that the model in question was a Canadian model, and that I would have to phone HP Technical Support.

So, yesterday I phoned them up, and got through to somebody in about 5 minutes. I explained the problem to the guy who answered (who actually spoke English!!!) and what I did to troubleshoot it and attempt to fix it. He had me hard reset the notebook, which didn’t fix it. So, he had me plug an Ethernet cable into the notebook, to check if that worked (which I had done when the problem started, but forgot to mention it to the guy). Then, he had me power cycle my Internet Modem (apparently, I also forgot to mention that the problem wasn’t with my Wireless Network, as my notebook connects to it fine). Then, he put me on hold for 5 minutes, and came back on the phone and told me that it’ll need to be sent into HP for warranty service. He explained to me that HP will send me a box through FedEx, which contains instructions, and that I should pack the notebook into the box (duh), and either get FedEx to pick it up, or to drop it off to FedEx. He said the box should arrive on Saturday (tomorrow), and that it usually takes 7-10 business days for you to get your notebook back (article on HP’s site says 10-14…). But, since Christmas is coming up soon, it might take longer. And… well, that was it, the warranty service was arranged, and all I need to do is put it in the box, and hand it over to FedEx. Pretty simple.

I was quite surprised when I received an email regarding the exact same issue today, actually.