On being secure

With all the recent news about the US government collecting and analyzing everything we do online and in our daily lives, we’ve all been looking for ways to increase our privacy.

Today, an article was posted on Hacker News about Google Analytics not being served over https. After reading this, I remembered that I use it and questioned whether or not I should keep it on this blog. Google Analytics has been installed on this blog for years, but today I found it hard to answer exactly why. It provides no real value to me other than satisfying my curiosity.

In the end, I decided to remove it. Not only because it is not served over https, but because the only real parties it benefits are Google and the NSA. My site is not large or popular, but it’s just one less site on the network being tracked through that channel.

I believe, in life, we should lead by example. I believe the web should be secure by default. I believe web servers should only function when using encryption (Supporting http was a design flaw, https should have been the only option. Even a self-signed certificate is safer than plaintext http.)

To that end, I’ve come up with a short list of simple things us website owners can do in order to hinder attacks or snooping by third parties. I’ll compare my own site against this post and update as I move toward compliance (red means failure):

  1. Serve content only when encrypted by perfect forward secrecy.
  2. Serve content entirely from web hosts and CDNs under your control.
  3. Encourage others to do the same.

It’s amazing how quickly my view on this has changed. If you would have asked me a year ago whether or not it was important to self-host images and scripts used on your site (or whether you should even be hosting your blog yourself versus using a third-party service like Tumblr), I would have answered an emphatic no and provided many reasons why letting a bigger, better player handle that is much better.  As a site operator, I want my site to be as fast as possible. As a web user, I want to be as secure as possible. Which is more important?

With the way things are now, it’s worth being a second or two slower to serve knowing that your stuff is your own.

An open response to Anthony re: The Problem with Parking

This is an email response I sent to Anthony Reinhart, who wrote a fantastic article on parking lots in the Innovation District in Kitchener.

I’d love to get your feedback on my ideas and hear what you have to say on the subject.

Hi Anthony,

Thanks so much for writing your “Problem with Parking” article on View From The Loo. I’ve seen you around the hub; I work with Ivan on Will Pwn 4 Food.

It’s an issue that’s dear to my heart, especially since I spent 5 years in walkable, lovely downtown Guelph. After getting the gig with Ivan, I knew that I’d have to move here, so I found a spot to rent across the street from Communitech on Victoria (I’m right across from Oak St., near the green Vidyard home).

I use my car to go a few blocks, just as you said, and I hate it. I would never have done such a thing in Guelph. After living here for 10 months, there are certain things that make being a pedestrian almost impossible.

We need a pedestrian-first mindset in this city. Here’s what I think needs to change to support that:

  • 40km/h speed limit in the Innovation District, rather than the 50km/h default, strictly enforced
  • All intersections default to crosswalks on. Currently, if you don’t press the crosswalk button on the corner of Victoria and Joseph (Communitech’s location), you are not allowed to walk across the street even when the light turns green (and lasts < 10 seconds I might add)
  • Pedestrian crossing light on Joseph for people who park in the stone parking lots behind Communitech. Currently, everyone j-walks and it’s very dangerous, especially in bad weather
  • A “scramble” crosswalk at the corner of Charles and Francis, giving us tech workers quick and easy access to food downtown without fear of being run over (I see many people crossing diagonally already)

To help support the discussion on this topic and keep the ball rolling, I’m going to CC this email to my blog. Is there a forum I can link to, as well, in case people have responses?

Best,

Don’t always listen to advice

When showing someone your start-up/product/service, it’s easy to let them guide your thinking unconsciously. It feels like there’s an inverse proportion of weight given to feedback to sample size, especially if it’s the first time taking the cover off.

Here’s a really great example of why one should always take every bit of advice as advice and not gospel:

advice

 

 

 

Kitchener: Street Cars Please

Have you ever been on Fischer-Hallman? It’s an ugly street, full of cars and traffic signals. Not pretty or pedestrian-friendly.

It’s also one of the busiest roads in Kitchener.

While this city is not the richest or the largest in Ontario, it’s to the point now where street cars can alleviate one of the biggest problems here: getting around.

The two lines presented below would let anyone go from the Downtown Go/Via station at Weber/Victoria to the Wal-Mart on Ottawa. Beautiful. As an added benefit, the Wal-Mart location is very close to the Conestoga Parkway, making it a great location to be picked up or dropped off by friends who use cars.


View Larger Map

Where LinkedIn Fails

linkedin-fail

I’ve interacted with Adrian Banninga before on Twitter. I wrote about his game in a Fund This Game article on my gaming site. He re-tweeted my post and #ff’d me. So why do I need to know someone in between him and me before we can connect?

As a huge fan of LinkedIn I’ve recommended it to a ton of people. How can I continue recommending it when I am unable to perform this site’s most basic function: add a person to my network?

How to disable mailto links in your browser

Outside of accidentally opening Internet Explorer the biggest annoyance on the web is mailto links. These are usually masqueraded as a ‘Contact Us’ link which you’d expect to forward to a web form. What ends up happening is either your operating system attempts to open a mail program (who still uses those, seriously?) or it forwards you to Gmail (less annoying but still annoying as hell).

Here’s how to disable mailto links in Firefox and Chrome.

My Car Makes a Nice Office But…

While I wait patiently for Canada to adopt a comprehensive high-speed rail line and commuter service, the next best thing is a car for working on the go. Though I’m the primary driver these days, there have been times when I’ve been the passenger. I write this now from a very comfortable position next to Exhibition Park in Guelph. I’m doing work on the laptop in the passenger seat (using a 3G USB adapter from Wind mobile).

Rail is my favourite mode of transport because:

  1. You face people. Seats are positioned in a way that fosters communication, unlike cars, in which everyone faces the same direction and it’s hard (and sometimes impossible) for people sitting less than a metre away in the back seat to hear conversation in the front seat.
  2. Free Wifi.
  3. Work while you travel. When you’re driving, you can’t do anything but drive. It’s dead time; a complete waste of human existence. If you travel by rail, you can accomplish work, read, think, relax, read.
  4. It’s fast. Even current rail service in Canada, specifically between Guelph and Toronto, isn’t that bad in terms of speed. My GPS reported that we reached 140km/h at one point. With some proper funding and planning, that could be the average speed, not the top speed.
  5. It’s safe. Rail is a very safe method of travel, especially compared to the car.
  6. You can pee. Every car has a washroom built right in. You don’t have to stop transport to pee.

Still, for times when I need a third place and cafes are closed, I use my car. It’s a 2001 Chrysler 300m. Here are a few things that could have been done better.

  1. Built-in inverter. My car has two access points to DC electricity: One in the front and one in the centre console. It uses the traditional cigarette lighter type adapter, to which I plug in an inverter which gives me AC electricity for my laptop.  (An even better solution would be to buy laptops that include a DC plug as well as an AC plug so I could just plug straight into DC since that’s what laptops use natively).
  2. Auxiliary input for the car stereo. I won a free car stereo and had the installers provide access to an AUX IN jack so I could plug my laptop audio in but it would be awesome if this came included out of the box. I have all of my mp3s, oggs, and music modules on my laptop.
  3. DC Access point for the back seat. Currently there is no way to access DC power in the back seat except through the centre console, which, when left open, is uncomfortable for the driver.
  4. Better fuel economy. While I’d love to have a fully electric car (such as the Ford Focus Electric), I realize that in 2001 the technology wasn’t close to being ready. My car gets an average of 11L/100KM in town and 7L/100KM highway. It would have been nice to have the ability to switch the engine between performance mode and economy mode whilst in the city.

Spending Less Time At Facebook These Days

Facebook has recently changed the way it handles my news feed. Because of this, it’s likely that I’ll be reading it less and keeping it around just to post things and check up on to make sure I haven’t missed a message.

Here’s why: I don’t equate friendship with following.

When I’m your friend, I want to keep in touch, maybe hang out, and share something with you directly. I don’t want to see your thought stream.

Don’t take it personally because it isn’t personal. When I read stuff online, it’s usually news. I want to learn something new about the fields in which I am excited, not in which you are excited. If it’s not news, it’s an editorial on said fields. If it’s not an editorial, it’s a tweet from someone who might be generating the previous two examples.

I had spent the last 6-12 months whittling down my Facebook news feed to weed out most people’s/most page’s posts from showing up.  The little down arrow icon with the “Hide all from xyz” was my best friend.

Then, a week or so ago, all those settings got wiped in favour of a new “acquaintences” system where you specifically select which group you want to read from.

Here’s why it doesn’t work: I have no clue what people are going to say before they say it, so I have no idea who I would like to follow. But, once they’ve said it, I sure as hell know who I would like to unsubscribe from.

This doesn’t mean I don’t want to be their friend, it just means I don’t want to mix their stuff in with mine is all.

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Awesome Vegetarian Restaurants in Downtown Toronto

Staying at the Hotel Victoria in downtown Toronto for the last week with my girlfriend Amy has opened us to a ton of new, fantastic vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Google has helped us find them all, but I wanted to take a second to put together a small list in case you’re downtown Toronto for a while and are looking for great places to eat.

I’ll separate them by category.

Pizza

Pizzaiolo
http://www.pizzaiolo.ca/
There are probably 15 to 20 of these around Toronto, but the one we went to was just a few doors down from our hotel on Yonge St. It was amazing. In fact, it was so amazing, we ordered pizzas there two days in a row. They have a ton of vegetarian and vegan choices and each are made fresh right in front of you. It’s amazing.

Take-Away and Fast Food

Urban Herbivore
http://www.torontoeatoncentre.com/EN/Directory/Stores/Pages/UrbanHerbivore_F018.aspx
Like most food places in Toronto, there are a few locations. The one we went to was in the Eaton Centre, and it was fantastic. I ate the BBQ Tofu sandwich and loved it even though I’m not normally a huge fan of tofu. It was quick and cheap. Like all great vegetarian food, if you didn’t know it was vegetarian you wouldn’t be able to tell.

Sit Down

Fresh Toronto Vegetarian FoodFresh
http://www.freshrestaurants.ca/our_history.asp
Fresh was, without a doubt, our favourite. It’s got great style, it’s busy, it’s fast, and the food tastes fantastic. Amy loved it so much she bought one of the recipe books they offer on sale.

King’s Cafe (Kensington Market)
http://www.kingscafe.com/
This is the sister restaurant to our favourite vegetarian restaurant in Guelph, Zen Garden. Great food and amazing Lychee Black tea.

YouTube’s New UI

If there was one website that needed a new UI it was Youtube.com. The site’s design hadn’t changed significantly since it’s introduction in 2005 and it was slow, heavy, and out-of-date.

Since the purchase of Youtube by Google, a few new features have shown up from time to time including the ability to sign in with your Google Account. Unfortunately, the site still felt like a third-party product and not part of the Google package.

In line with the across-the-board design upgrade to all of Google’s offerings, Youtube has just upgraded its design to match its Google siblings, Gmail and Docs. It’s a huge boost in terms of design and functionality, but it’s not all peachy. First, the bits that work well.

  • The Account Switching feature that’s found on Google Docs and Gmail is a very welcome addition, especially for people that make Youtube videos but also have a personal account with separate preferences and subscriptions.
  • The site is much faster. It’s hard to describe how good it feels to actually watch videos on the site now. Before, the site would stop loading randomly, usually just as we sat down to eat after clicking Play or when showing someone a video you’ve raved about.
  • Buttons are in the right spots and don’t move while the site is loading. I’ve griped about this sort of UI mistake before on other websites, especially twitter.com. The problem is something will move as soon as I go to click on it because another part of the website has loaded. I end up clicking on something else (usually an ad) that I didn’t want at all. It’s terribly frustrating and (thankfully) has been much improved in the UI upgrade.

And now for the not so good. Don’t worry, there isn’t much.

Is this Yahoo or Google?

There is way too much stuff on the front page. When Google first launched their search engine, designers lauded the simplicity of their design. It was common to compare yahoo.com up against google.com. Unfortunately, the front page of Youtube seems to be going in the wrong direction: more and more things just keep getting piled on the front page until it becomes a cluttered mess and I’m unsure exactly what I’m supposed to be looking at.

What’s your take?

Wireless in Welland, Ontario, Canada

Over the holidays this year I’m in Niagara staying at my parents’ place. Used to working at the Red Brick Cafe in Guelph, I was worried heading back to an area without a focus on tech would mean staying in the basement to do work. I searched for a few hours online and talked to some folks to figure out where the wireless hotspots in Welland are.

I couldn’t find much.

So, I figured I would list wireless hotspots I had found in the area to let those who come after me to know where they can get some work done in a comfortable environment.

The List So Far

Cafe on Main

Where: 91 East Main Street.

Hours: Mon-Fri – 8am to 5pm, Sat – 9am to 3pm, Sun – Closed.

The best cafe experience in Welland, bar none. Take the #9 or #10 bus to the downtown terminal and walk a block toward the historic bridge. Located directly across from the courthouse, it offers a quiet and comfortable atmosphere and includes a fireplace. If you’re in the area and are looking for a place to get a good latte, this is it!

Seaway Mall Food Court

Where: 800 Niagara St., Welland, Ontario, Canada (view map)

Hours: Mon-Fri – 10am to 9pm, Sat – 9:30am to 5:30pm, Sun – 12pm to 5pm

Seaway Mall’s food court has several wireless hotspots and some work better than others. I had great experience with SSID SeawayMallA but almost none with SSID SeawayMallE.

Cafe Mochaccino in Seaway Mall

Where: 800 Niagara St., Welland, Ontario, Canada (view map)

Hours: Mon-Fri – 10am to 9pm, Sat – 9:30am to 5:30pm, Sun – 12pm to 5pm

Great (and inexpensive!) cappuccino but no in-house wireless. Using Seaway Mall’s wireless required me to sit at one of their tables just outside of the cafe.

That’s it, for now. Expect this post to grow as time goes on and more wireless hotspots are discovered. And, by all means, if you find your own wireless hotspots in Welland please list them in the comments!

Windows Azure is Windows 8

I sat in my office last night trying to identify what Microsoft is doing to combat upstart thin-client operating systems like Google Chrome OS, continue making money with its very popular offline Office suite and offline Windows platform, and compete against Amazon for data and web services now that the world is moving into cloud services.

They will have a lot of competition in the next 3 to 5 years against their core, money-making software products and I believe their plan is to leverage the millions of existing .NET developers and all of the skills they’ve spent years developing to change Windows from a boxed product to a subscription-based “Windows-As-A-Service” service.

I’ve been working with the Windows Azure platform for a few weeks now and I have to say I’m quite impressed. Launching apps is pretty easy once you have the required software installed and there are plenty of projects already listed at CodePlex to get you started. Moving from .NET development to Azure development is a piece of cake. They also appear to be much more open to supporting non-Microsoft development languages such as Ruby and PHP. As a Linux guy, I have to admit they’ve put this together pretty damn well.

Currently, the industry has only paid attention to the web application deployment features of Azure. I believe the true power of Azure is not just deploying scaling web applications but in its ability to launch virtualized desktops from the cloud. Let me explain what I envision Microsoft’s plans to be for the future of the entire software lineup.

The Home PC Market

Imagine you’re a standard, nuclear family buying a home PC in the year 2015. You go to Staples (or whatever your big box store of choice is) and look at what they offer. They have a number of PCs for sale but because by this time most computers have enough horsepower for the home user, the hardware statistics are subdued or even missing. Instead, the software features are prominently displayed.

Available for sale is a home PC that will give you Windows Azure (includes 5 users, Internet Explorer, Office Home, Zune music and PC game marketplace). There are three prices, depending on how long your contract term is, similar to a mobile phone.

  • 3-year contract: $249 hardware cost + $99.99 / year Windows Azure subscription
  • 2-year contract: $499 hardware cost + $99.99 / year Windows Azure subscription
  • No contract: $599 hardware cost + $99.99 / year Windows Azure subscription

You bring the PC home after buying the 3-year contract (who replaces a home PC within 3 years anyway, right?) and turn the machine on. The default software on the machine is a thin-client that simply facilitates the connection to Windows Azure. You create the users for each of your family members and in behind the scenes each of them gets a virtualized desktop (probably Windows 7 renamed to be Azure Home or something of the sort), hosted in the cloud. Instantly all activation, piracy, and product key woes are a thing of the past.

Because the virtualizations are hosted in the cloud, all of the annoyances that current operating systems have would be minimized or eliminated. Consider: All updates to the operating system could happen while the PC is, effectively, off. If Microsoft chose to solidify the hardware requirements for manufacturers, the platform would no longer need drivers after a fresh install and driver updates would happen transparently.

On the each virtualized desktop is an icon for the Zune marketplace where users can purchase Windows apps like iPhone subscribers can: from their app store. Clicking purchase would instantly make available the software you’ve purchased.

The benefit of all this is that of every cloud: You don’t always need to be on the same PC to do your work. You could sit at any computer in an airport, school, library, cafe, or your home and access your desktop from anywhere. Truly this is the stuff of the future.

SMB Market

Because the virtualized desktops will be running the Windows everyone already knows, application development will remain just as easy as it ever has. Developers who are out there, making applications on the Windows platform will only need to learn “What’s new” instead of “What’s changed?”

Businesses will be sold on cost reduction since the Windows Azure platform removes almost all administration and IT support requirements from the business. If you can plug a PC in, you’re pretty much good to go. No more crazy Windows product keys or version incompatibilities. All apps on your virtualization would be incrementally updated over time. Since everyone on the service is paying yearly, this would cover the cost to Microsoft normally attributed to upgrading.

The Windows Azure Business option would also include an SLA.

Corporation / Government Market

For this market, Microsoft would take the SMB Market platform and simply multiply it to handle thousands of PCs. Likely they would offer additional support, a better SLA, and decreased per-unit cost due to bulk sales and contracts.

All of this is really magical stuff and I really hope the future turns out to be something similar. The other exciting part of Azure is what most people focus on: the fact that it offers nearly unlimited storage, computation, and development possibilities for developers and businesses. And that’s where Microsoft needs to cut the mustard. Or else, this whole thing is for nothing.

In order to get businesses and users to adopt the new platform, there has to be killer applications available on it. New stuff, not just Office and IE. Fun stuff like Google Goggles or Twitter. And that can only come from a completely open and available system to let the minds of developers take their crazy dreams and put them into code.

If I could make an impassioned plea to Microsoft, from a developer, please offer us an Azure development option at no cost. We’re not asking you to host our million hits per day website for free, just something we can log into, put up and app and see if it gets some traction. If it’s good and generates some revenue, give us a call and we’ll sell it or start paying.

What do all of you think of the possibilities of this new service? Are you excited about Azure? Let me know in the comments!

A Month With Mandriva

Well, it’s been just over a month since I made the switch to Linux from Windows. My distribution of choice for desktop PCs has always been the fantastic Mandriva Linux. Available for free with plenty of included software (Open Office suite, the Firefox web browser, Kopete messenger, Amarok media player, and much more), it’s always done the trick and looks wonderful doing so.

I have two physical hard drives in my PC. The first one is mounted ‘/’ for all my system files and programs. The second drive is my ‘/home’ directory, where all of my documents are kept. All of the system files are kept entirely separate from my documents.This sort of division is done even with one single hard drive automatically by Mandriva so that if I ever need to format or upgrade the operating system I don’t lose any of my pictures, movies, or music, ever.

Me playing Morrowind in Linux
Me playing Morrowind in Linux

Life without Windows is certainly possible. I’m living proof. And the stuff I use my computer for is likely more intense than your average Joe since I’m a web developer. All of the required software that I use on a daily basis is available and runs great in Linux.

All of my games worked out-of-the-box using the Windows games and software emulator* (Read more about the Wine project). I’ve included a screenshot of me playing Morrowind. It runs great. My girlfriend and I played through Max Payne on this PC, as well, and we’re a quarter of the way through the Quest for Glory 2 remake (which is a lot of fun, by the way) on my other Mandriva Linux PC (our media center).

If you’re considering running Linux or if you’ve heard about it and are curious, give Mandriva Linux One a try. It’s pretty simple: You download it and burn it onto a blank CDR. Reboot with the disc in the drive and you can use it right off the disc without actually installing it. If you like it, go ahead and install it. Otherwise, just take the disc out and reboot — nothing has been changed on your computer.

For more information about Linux, try reading some of these sites:

* I realize Wine is technically not an emulator, but when explaining what it does it helps to use that term.

Totally Loving Blippr

I found out about a really awesome site this week. It’s called Blippr. It’s basically Twitter but for game, music, movie, and book reviews. You have 160 characters to let the world what you think. It’s really addictive.

After creating a profile, you can link to your Facebook and Twitter accounts so any blips you write will be displayed there. This is great to help build some incoming links and keeps your Twitter fresh, which then pushes your profile page up in the search rankings. For a while there my Blippr profile was showing at the top of search results while searching “Rocky1138” on Google.

If you end up joining, add me as a friend and we’ll see how we stack up against each other in game, music, book, and movie reviews.

Sometimes Old Technology Is Cool

I recently acquired an old-school Revere Model 85 8mm projector, a Laurel and Hardy film, and a projector screen for under $45 together. Being a computer programmer and gamer my focus is generally on 3D graphics and technological whizbangery but film has always had a special place in my heart.

When I get it up and running, I’ll post a few pics and maybe a video. I need to find a PDF of the manual though because feeding these things film requires a PhD.

Wish me luck!

Ways to Make Google Chrome Even Better

If you’re on top of technology news, you’ve no doubt heard of Google Chrome. Recently released by Google to the happiness of geeks and internet surfers everywhere, this browser has the attributes of a real winner. Chrome is fast, intuitive, efficient, and unintrusive. I love it.

That being said, there are a number of things that could be done to improve the product and user experience, especially for Web Developers. These are in no particular order.

#1. “Open image in new tab” is not as good as the “View Image” function in Firefox.

About 5 to 10 times a day I right-click on an image and select “View Image” in Firefox. It’s a handy feature that seems to have been superseded by the “Open image in new tab” function in Chrome. If this functionality is to become the mainstay then I request that when you open an image in a new tab that the focus shifts to that new tab automatically. That way I can just close it when I’m done.

#2. (and for some this is a deal-breaker) The EULA.

Update: As of 09-04-2008 this has been remedied.

Who in their right mind wrote this thing? Because I used Google Chrome to write this very blog post does that now mean that this post can be used by Google or any of its corporate friends anywhere they want? Rubbish!

From the End User License Agreement:

“11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.”

How do you all feel about that?

For those that are interested, the full EULA is available here: http://www.google.com/chrome/eula.html

#3. What’s my Pagerank?

After installing SearchStatus in Firefox I’ve become addicted to knowing what my Pagerank is for each page on my site. It’s really, really handy. Since this product is directly from Google, I figured it would include an option to show you the PageRank of every site you visit. But it doesn’t.

#4. Inspect Element on Hover

If you right-click anywhere on a webpage you are able to inspect the element located under your cursor. This is handy and works well, but after using Firebug and the Web Developer Extension for Firefox, I’ve become accustomed to this information being available dynamically on whatever element I hover my mouse over. As you hover your mouse over any element on a page with these extensions enabled, the information updates in real-time. It’d be nice to see that as well in this browser.

These are just first impressions, I’m interested in hearing how the rest of you feel about this shiny new browser from Google. Are there any features that you wish were included?

PHP Tip of the day: Just say ‘no’ to absolute file paths

When dealing with file paths in your scripts, it’s best to not specify the absolute path. Keep it simple and specify a relative path. What’s the difference? Check out the example below:

Example: In your index.php file you are using the php include() statement to include a file named “includeme.php” located in the “includes” directory. Two methods of doing this are found below:

Method 1: Relative paths: include(“includes/includeme.php”);
Method 2: Absolute paths: include(“/var/www/html/project/trunk/includes/includeme.php”);

Notice how the first include() statement refers to a file in the “includes” directory, one directory down from the file calling it (in this case index.php). In the second, the include() statement has the entire path to the file right from root.

Why choose option 1 over option 2? Well …

#1. It makes server management easier, faster, and cheaper.

During the lifetime of a web server, the web files may need to be moved and/or directories renamed. Imagine what would happen to your website if you were to rename the “project” directory to “old_project”? You’d have to go through all of your scripts and rename the project directories in the include() statements in all of your scripts.

Using method 1, everything keeps on working with no updates to your scripts.

#2. It makes moving your site to another server easier, faster, and cheaper.

If while maintaining your website you end up switching which VPS company you host with or you change the operating system on your server, you could find yourself in a position where instead of having your web files located in the /var/www directory like most Linux distributions you have them located in the /usr/local/www directory like some BSD installations.

In this case you could use symlinks to forward requests of /var/www to /usr/local/www, change your apache configuration to put your web files to /var/www, or update all of your scripts so that they have the correct path. For now.

All of those things feel like hacks.

Best thing to do is just to code from the start with relative paths, thereby avoiding all of these path problems.

Games I Would Remake

In light of the recent release of the Quest for Glory 2 Remake , I wanted to do an “If I had a ton of money… I would make/remake these games” post. These are games that mean something to me — they have either touched my life in some way or I always thought they were overlooked by the gaming masses. Sometimes because of a glaring design flaw, sometimes because the technology just wasn’t there. Regardless, here’s the list (and it’s by no means final).

#1. Shenmue 1 thru 3 in one giant game.

Shenmue epitomized the Sega Dreamcast. Years ahead of its time, yet somehow not quite technically capable of doing what it set out to achieve. This epic game featured neat novelties such as being able to pick up and examine pretty much anything — even completely useless matchboxes. An intriguing story marred by awkward yet unintentionally funny dialog, this game is a good candidate for a new as yet unavailable virtual reality technology.  Imagine playing this game with full, modern graphics and a 3D headset!

#2. Syndicate

For a long time when I was in public school this was my favorite game for the Atari Jaguar. I loved the idea, the music, and the game-play.  I played Syndicate Wars and it was awesome, as well. I’d really like to see a sequel made with today’s graphics.

#3. Bonk’s Adventure

If game developers nowadays took almost any old-school platform game and converted it to 2.5D, it’d be a much more fun world for all of us. Bonk’s Adventure, in my opinion, would be near the top of the list of games to re-do in glorious 2.5D. In all honesty, I could see a remake of this game appearing on the Wii for today’s kids to play. Good stuff.

#4. Road Rash – 3DO/Saturn/PSX version

This game was hella fun in its day. It still is.  Where are games like this today?

#5. Transport Tycoon Deluxe / Locomotion

I know, I know. Locomotion is relatively new and it’s the spiritual successor to Transport Tycoon. But, what I’m envisioning is a huge graphical upgrade to the series along with networked play via the internet. Imagine a persistent MMO universe version of this game where players are continuing to build while you’re offline. A humongous world-size playfield: 30,000km with thousands of cities and villages. Perhaps that’s something for the creators of games like Second Life to think about. Instead of taking Transport Tycoon Deluxe and making it part of a persistent world, why don’t they make transportation a user-driven economy in large-scale persistent-world online social games? It’s more fun than chatting!