Sunday, 30 March 2008

MC Media Player's RSS URL has changed

The URL for the MC Media Player RSS feed has changed. I'm moving over to and I've updated the feed to:

Please update your subscription to the new address and accept my apologies for the hassle. The new URL should be permanent so I don't think I'll ever have to ask you to change again.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Xcor Aerospace Update

California company Xcor Aerospace plans to enter the space tourism industry with a two-seat rocket ship capable of suborbital flights. Named Lynx, the vehicle is about the size of a small private plane and is expected to begin flying in 2010.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Italian Cashier Hypnotized

Quirky news story of the week is the case of the Italian supermarket checkout operator who was hypnotized by a cunning criminal into handing over a wad of cash. Apparently she didn't realise what had happened until her till didn't balance at the end of the shift.

Interestingly I haven't see any news stories tackle the question of whether this is a plausible story. I suspect we'll hear more, but allow me to pre-empt the result with my guess...

First of all, you can't just approach someone and hypnotise them instantly to do your bidding. Many people are immune altogether, and only the most suggestive are likely to be controllable in the reported fashion. The thief would probably want to select and groom the victim before the main event, just to make sure she was going to react as needed.

Hypnotism can't make you do anything that you consider morally wrong. If the girl was genuinely hypnotized, the criminal must have been even more cunning than most people would think. Perhaps he could have suggested that the money was for a worthy cause, or that he had been given permission to take it. However it does smell fishy - the ease of the apparent hypnotism makes me suspicious.

I have no strong gut feeling either way, but if I had to put money on it, I'd bet that the cashier was an accomplice. I wouldn't convict her without hard evidence of course, but I'd certainly be looking at her closely if I was on the investigative team.

I must emphasize this: I do believe that the hypnotism reported in this story is unlikely but certainly possible. "Innocent until proven guilty" and all that. Let's see what happens.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Google Analytics Benchmarking

If you use Google Analytics for your website statistics, you might be interested in the new benchmarking option. If you agree to share your data (anonymously), Google will give you a comparison showing your traffic stats against other similar sites.

The benchmarking service has been collecting data for the last couple of weeks and it went live today. I had a lot of fun seeing my stats against industry standards. However it's pretty much a once-off buzz at the moment. There's not much to look at, and once you've seen how a site fares there's not much point going back to that report again.

Still, Google has a solid record of starting simple and building things into something no one else saw coming. This could be the beginning of a revolutionary way to measure statistics. I'm optimistic.


Importantly, all sites are divided into three categories: Small, medium and large. Statistics for a site can only be compared against other sites in the same category. The trouble is, you don't know which category your site is in, so how can you tell what you're really being compared to?

I don't have the whole answer (yet) but I've got a reasonable estimate. Because I have a few dozen websites that get various levels of traffic, I've been able to pin down the range of statistics in each category to some extent. It's still quite rough, and the data will change anyway as the service matures, but here's how I see it:

Small: The benchmark for sites in this category is around 5 visits per day. It includes sites that get up to somewhere between 15 and 50 visits per day.

Medium: The benchmark is around 200 visits per day (2100 page views). The range is from around 50 to somewhere between 1000 and 10,000 visits per day.

Large: The benchmark is around 10,000 visits per day. The range is from somewhere between 1000 and 10,000 visits per day upwards.

I currently have one site in the large category (Google thinks I'm large - now there's an aphrodisiac :)). The site is of course, which is ranking 57% higher than the benchmark for large sites. Woohoo!

Now here's an interesting idea for Google - what about being able to share data between consenting accounts, so for example, I could agree to share data with some of my competitors and we could all measure up against each other. I don't know how many people would buy into it but I'd be a starter for sure. Nothing like a bit of in-your-face competition to get you motivated.

3-D camera with 12,616 lenses

Stanford electronics researchers are developing a camera built around what they call a "multi-aperture image sensor." Pixels are reduced in size and grouped in arrays of 256 pixels. The fascinating thing is how image depth metadata can be stored with the image, allowing photo editors to select objects in the image based on their distance from the camera. Apparently this opens up lots of other new opportunities as well.

Full article at

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Types of Photography

Here are a few new articles for the "Types of Photography" section at
Astrophotography - Space photography.
Digiscoping - Photography through a telescope or binoculars.
Forensic Photography - Police and legal.
Infrared Photography - Photography in which the recording medium is sensitive to infrared light rather than the normal visible light spectrum.
Travel Photography - This article includes some basic tips on travel photography.

Monday, 17 March 2008

New Space Photos

I've uploaded more photos from STS-123, plus a new section: Astronauts in Action. It's brand new (not many photos yet) but I imagine this section being huge one day. I'm even going to try and build a database of photos of all astronauts that have flown in space. I don't really know if it's practical but it's worth a try. Maybe I'll limit it to "pioneering astronauts" or something like that.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Tip for press releases: Bad news

Here's a quick article for PR writers, or anyone faced with the unenviable task: The best way to announce bad news.

Transferring a Website

Today I became aware that one of our clients had initiated a less-than-perfect domain transfer to a new server. As I type this, their site is unreachable and won't be up and running for a while yet.

If you rely on your site in any way, this wouldn't be a good turn of events. So, I posted a quick article on the best way to transfer a website from one server to another. If I've missed anything please let me know.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Shuttle Night Launch

Some great shots of STS-123 blasting off into the night sky. More photos to come throughout the mission.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Commissioned Articles

I've always liked the idea of commissioning articles but it's hard to make them profitable, especially if you need high-quality copy and you don't like plastering too many ads on the page (meaning less income per article).

I've just found a new source which looks promising and I've purchased an article about the digital camera RAW format for I'm going to keep an eye on the stats and see how it goes, and I'll probably purchase a few more similar articles as well - enough to do some decent testing. If it goes okay this could be a great way to help build the website.

BTW I only ever purchase articles that are 100% unique.

Edit: I bought another few articles:
The end of analog broadcast
What is an IP Network Camera?
Introduction to MS Word

Monday, 3 March 2008


I'm currently negotiating with a researcher to write articles for It's looking very promising and it's also giving me some enthusiasm to have another burst with the site. I've started re-writing some of the existing articles and there's a chance the site will be ready for wider publicity within a couple of months.

I'm still keen to hear from anyone who wants to contribute articles though. Let me know if you're interested.

Saturday, 1 March 2008 Update

I've finally uploaded the rest of the images from the Space Shuttle STS-120 and STS-122 missions. I've also started accumulating enough Shuttle images to start organizing them into categories such as launch, landing, etc. It's still early days but I think the site is starting to take shape.

I have to say I'm a bit bummed at how long it's taking me to add new images using the very manual system I've chosen for this site. I made a decision to use plain HTML pages and do all the work on the images by hand, rather than using a gallery script like I did at My reasoning was that although it would take longer to publish new material, the resulting pages would be more permanent, robust and SEO-friendly. Also, it's quite a hassle staying up to date with PHP scripts. I still think I made the right decision but it's harder work than I anticipated.

Next on the to-do list for this site: More Shuttle and Apollo photos.

By the way, NASA announced this morning that the STS-123 mission is slated for launch on the 11th March.