Scripting News for 10/6/07

A travel day 

Going from SFO to JFK via VA.

Reading material: Paul Graham on web startups.

Follow me on Twitter. 🙂

Virgin Laptop Airlines 

I’m writing this from 35,000 feet, a few miles south of Interstate 70, and a few miles east of Grand Junction, CO. The airspeed is 527 miles per hour. I’m on a Virgin Atlantic flight from San Francisco to New York.

So here’s the promised report on the experience. The networking features aren’t live yet, it seems that will be the big differentiator. The only feature on entertainment system that’s (imho) worth anything is the map that shows where the plane is at. Instead of the low-rez maps you get on international flights, which is a godsend on long trips, you get a beautiful Google political map, that you can zoom in and out on. It shows roads, cities and parks. It would be great if they also showed the terrain, esp since we’re flying over clouds right now, and of course some of the most spectacular scenery in the world is below those clouds. No more guessing where you are, you know, with great precision, exactly where you are.

The power at the seat works. The USB connectors are for charging iPods and other devices that charge over USB.

The chat rooms, the feature people were most excited about, while inspiring, aren’t being used by the other passengers. I don’t like that they can see my seat number. Maybe that’s why people aren’t participating. I’ll check back later in the flight, maybe then people will be more bored and will be trying out other stuff.

They offer a rich selection of movies and live TV, but I’m not that interested. If there were any breaking news happening right now (the Mets in the playoffs, or an impeachment debate in Congress, as examples), I guess there would be value in it. But I spend a fair amount of time before a trip accumulating videos, music, podcasts, etc. I have a huge surplus of stuff I already want to watch or listen to, it’s ahrd for the airline to compete with that.

The flight attendants wear black and are young and all male. The lighting in the plane reminds me of a W Hotel, that is, very hard on my old eyes. But this is a daytime flight and the window shades are up, so we’re getting good light. If it were dark, I’d have trouble seeing.

The crew is friendly, and geeky. There are two wireless LANs on the plane: secretva1 and walrus. I’m connected to walrus just for the heck of it. I asked a flight attendant what it was for, he said it’s an internal network they use for the kitchen. Not sure what that means. I suggested it would be cool if we could share files among the passengers. I have a funny feeling we can. I can’t log into the other network, secretva1. Not sure how to share just part of a Mac on a network, but I may try to figure it out. A file-sharing network among the passengers. That’s an idea.

Anyway, I joked with the attendant that this seems to be the airline designed for laptop users, kind of like Virgin Laptop Airlines. I like the way that sounds.

BTW, now we’re just south of Denver, and the clouds are gone. There are towns scattered across great distances. Pretty cool. Wish this were getting posted while I was writing it, as usual. Next year. Murphy-willing of course. 🙂

Yet another Feedburner problem 

I got an email last week from an Italian blogger who I met at the dinner in Milan in June saying that a feature of Feedburner that allows people to game the subscriber count for a blog is wreaking havoc in Italy. I took a look and found immediately that the conversation is entirely in Italian, a language that I (unfortunately) do not read.

So I asked my Italian host and friend, Paolo Valdemarin, to look into it, and he sent me a detailed email, in English, explaining. I asked him to post the email and he has done so. It’s a very interesting situation and calls into question some of the huge Feedburner subscriber counts you see on various blogs.

The gist of the problem is that it’s easy to add 2 million or 20 million subscribers to Feedburner’s count for your feed. as Paolo explains.

Thanks Paolo for looking into this. It’ll be interesting to see if a discussion develops in the U.S.

Twittergram update 

Last night I opened up the picture processing part of the Twittergram service.

It’s the second scenario in Thursday’s post about web architecture.

That means that anyone can sign up for the service, and links to all their pictures will be posted to their Twitter account. A lot of new people are using it, but learning that too much of a good thing can be, er.. too much. So I’m going to have to put some constraints on it, like this: no more than five pictures per hour? So they queue up after that? Not sure. You could ruin an account by posting too many pics (it might take a long time to clear the queue). This is going to take some thinking and perhaps experimentation. Ideas are welcome.

Follow all the pics in the picstream account. I clearly should do a page on the Twittergram account that shows all the pics. Already some people are using it for R-rated pictures. Oy. This might get more “interesting.” 🙂

4 responses to this post.

  1. RE: Feedburner issue

    This seems like it would be easy to fix. Feedburner could easily filter their stats based on known-good Bloglines/Google Reader IP addresses instead of blindly trusting the referrer.

    Or, they could do something like many SMTP servers do and simply require that the PTR record for the IP that reports a subscriber count in it’s referer matches the TLD that is claimed in the referer.

    I’m surprised that this was only figured out recently. Seems like the obvious approach to gaming the results.


  2. >This seems like it would be easy to fix.
    >Feedburner could easily filter their stats based
    >on known-good Bloglines/Google Reader
    >IP addresses instead of blindly trusting the referrer.

    An easy fix (via IP restration) for server based aggregators, like Google Reader or Bloglines.

    Not fixable (with the current methodology the use) for things like NetNewsWire, FeedDemon or Newsgator Inbox.

    I guess they could just ignore any stats besides Google Reader. 🙂


  3. Posted by William Merriam on October 8, 2007 at 12:30 am

    Virgin Laptop Airlines

    “an internal network they use for the kitchen”

    A user offers some more information: “Having walrus open is a mistake they sometimes make. You can actually get to the application that controls all their service stuff, including reboot, ordering food, etc.”


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