Saturday, 29 November 2008

How Flickr became "Flickr", and not "Flicker"

Flickr popularised the idea of naming web-based applications (web-app) by dropping the last vowel in the name. The idea has inspired other web-apps like Tumblr and Pixlr, to name just two. There's an interesting story behind how Flickr became "Flickr", a case of how good ideas are not always obvious.
Flickr’s branding was a lucky combination of good decisions and happy accidents. I really wanted to use a real word as the brand name – something evocative with nice connotations, but which would not limit what we could do with it.

After a few solid days of brainstorming, one of our advisors suggested “flicker” which we all liked... flickering candles, screens; it was very playful and open-ended.

But we weren’t able to buy the domain name and were temporarily stumped for what to do. Caterina Fake, Flickr’s co-founder, suggested dropping the ‘e’ which I strongly resisted. I eventually gave in and was very glad I did. It turned out to be a stroke of genius, spawning a slew of imitators. The missing vowel came to symbolise innovation, ‘newness’ and the whole Web 2.0 movement. When people told each other about it, they would always pause to spell out the name “f-l-i-c-k-r” reinforcing the name and increasing the chance of recall.

Of course, the whole product embodied the brand – playful, open, powerful and participatory. From the beginning it had a very enthusiastic community and great press. In fact, Flickr still has never advertised and reaches over 50 million unique users per month.
Read the rest of the interview with Stewart Butterfield, Flickr's co-founder.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Photoscape lets you do nifty things with your photos

No Photoshop? No problem.

is a Swiss Army knife for your digital photos. It can rename multiple photo simultaneously, do basic touch ups, show your saved photo collections and do screen capture.

But what I really, really like about Photoscape is that it can combine different photos together as one photo, and split large ones into smaller parts.

Here's a combined photo I made using 4 different screen captures.

Photoscape might be limited in its set of functions, but very easy to use.

(The video from which I got the screen captures is below. High speed connection recommended. It's ├╝ber-cute and educational, you might pick up some French.)

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

At the school I went to in my fourth and fifth form, we were allowed to decorate our desks. Any unobjectionable pictures, messages and so on (they must flat, of course) were allowed. We would arrange then on the desk the way we wanted and then cover them with a sheet of transparent plastic. Everyone did it except for a few boys who were living outside, not in the hostel like most of us. The girls generally went all out.

For my desk I had chosen a picture of Malcolm X I had printed out from an encyclopaedia CD-ROM. I knew Malcolm X as an American Muslim figure who got assassinated, nothing more. The truth was I wanted to appear clever. But even until I the end of schooling there nobody had ever asked me who he was and why I had his picture there.

I once saw a picture of him hung in backdrop of an Afro-American sitcom (I don't remember which show). It was supposed to be the living room of an average Afro-American family. What surprised me was that family in the show was Christian. I learned later that Malcolm X was actually famous and revered as a Afro-American activists. Earlier in his Muslim life he identified himself as a Black Muslim, a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI) and disciple of Elijah Muhammad, NOI's leader.

An ex-colleague told me to check out The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Read the chapter where he went to Mecca for Hajj and discovered that Islam is a religion for all colours. It'll be one of the most unforgettable books you'll ever read.

I have before talked the wonders of going to a book sale. It's kind of like going on a treasure hunt. In one such trip I found a copy of this book although was a bit ruined by moisture and uncareful handling.

It is a autobiography but not the true sense. Malcolm X was an extremely busy man. The book was put together with the help of Alex Haley, the author of Roots. Roots was made into a very talked-about TV mini series back in the 1970s. A few of my teachers in primary school told us about it. If your teacher had mentioned the name Kunta Kinte, yep, he or she was talking about Roots.

The book is tells the life of Malcolm Little, who later became Malcolm X, and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. Malcolm had chosen to disclose his wild younger days as a Harlem hustler and a burglar in Boston. He believes they play some part in the making of his future self. We are made of our good and bad pasts.

Malcolm found Islam in prison. He stolen a watch from a wealthy Boston home, a rare and expensive one, and took it to a shop for repairs. The shop tipped off the police and he was arrested when he came in to collect it.

Initially he rejected all kinds of faith. People even started to call him "Satan." (I don't know why but I find part very funny.) Through letters sent to him in prison, Malcolm's siblings told about a so-called true religion for the Black people. It is called Islam.

They spoke of a wise person, Elijah Muhammad, who would lead the Black to greatness. He taught the people that "the white man is the Devil." It's not hard to see how he won many supporters. Malcolm decided to write to Elijah everyday. Their relationship bloomed when Malcolm joined with Elijah and the NOI after being released, and was made a minister. Malcolm proved to an asset. He was articulate and persuasive. Many of the NOI temples owe their existence to his relentless efforts.

Islam warns against fanaticism, and NOI began to show symptoms of it. Malcolm sensed that things are not fine, not just the way NOI functioned but the way top NOI people treated him. It was much worse than a cold shoulder. Whispers had reached his ears that a few people want him dead.

Then came the part my ex-colleague talked about, his Hajj. In those dangerous days, Malcolm turned to Allah for help. And Allah summoned him to the Haram, the holy cities. He met some trials before he was allowed into the Haram, including having to prove to the authorities that he is an actual Muslim. In those days, an American Muslim was almost a paradox to some people. However, trials proved to strengthen his beliefs and opened his eyes to the universality of Islam.

Throughout the book, Malcolm speaks widely about the Afro-American's condition. He was a believer in the "white man is the Devil" doctrine and went all over the country to teach it. But the Hajj and the trip to several African countries he took afterwards changed his world view. He believed that Islam is the solution to the racial problem.
I remember one night at Mudzdalifa with nothing but the sky overhead I lay awake amid sleeping Muslim brothers and I learned that pilgrims from every land — every color, and class and rank; high officials and the beggars alike — all snored in the same language.
My ex-colleague was right; this book had grabbed me and have yet to let me go.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Speed up your PC's boot time with Startup Delayer

In case you aren't following the latest tech news, allow me to update you. Developers are currently working hard to make the PC boot up (start up) quicker.

Long boot time is a common PC problem, especially for older PCs. When the PC boots it will load the OS to get it working. But that's not all. At boot time other programs are also loaded, e.g. anti-virus software. It depends on the setting of the programs, some are designed to start during boot time. The more programs you have starting at boot time, the longer it takes of your PC to boot fully.

Some people, if their PC takes 5 minutes to boot up, they would go fix themselves a cup of tea or even do their laundry and later come back to their completely booted PC. Unlike them I have a patience-deficit problem. That's why I'm glad to find something like Startup Delayer.

Startup Delayer is a great way to speed your boot time. It works by allowing you to set how long should program's start up time be delayed. I chose 5 minutes for most of my programs and in about 1 minute I'm able to use my PC. I couldn't believe it at first, my 4-year-old PC fully booted in just 1 minute.

There are other ways of speeding up the PC's boot time, but I find Startup Delayer to be a flexible solution.

[ In Age of Impatience, Cutting PC Start Time (NY Times) ]

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Siapa yang mendapat faedah daripada nasihat?

Menasihat orang. Oh, sungguh berat bab ini.

Saya tak gemar memberi orang nasihat, tapi kadang-kadang oleh sebab kerja, orang cari saya.

Saya rasa berat sebab kadang-kadang nasihat yang bagi itu pun belum tentu saya mampu mengamalkannya. Pernah Encik rol kata kepada Encik rol, ko amik la nasihat-nasihat bernas ko tu dan sumbatlah masuk ko punye @#$% sendiri! Pandai sangat mengajar orang. (Masa tu tengah marah kat diri sendiri.)

Memang senang untuk diam sahaja atau menyuruh mereka yang datang untuk memikirkan jalan penyelesaian sendiri. Kita pun menimbun masalah serta kekurangan, apa layak kita nak membetul atau membantu orang lain?

Nasihat itu perkara yang penting dalam agama Islam. Bahkan agama itu nasihat. Agama juga adalah untuk semua; orang soleh mahupun orang sesat. Semua perlu pada agama, dan nasihat.

Bolehkah lari dari memberi nasihat? Kalau macam saya, memang kerja yang orang cari untuk rujuk dan dapat nasihat? Mungkin tak. Sudah tanggungjawab. Berat pun kita kena cuba pikul.

Saya jadi lega sikit bila saya ingat balik nasihat orang alim tentang nasihat. Kata mereka:
Orang yang mendapat faedah daripada nasihat bukanlah yang menyampaikannya atau yang mendengarnya, tapi yang mengamalkannya.
Sekarang nasihat Encik rol kepada Encik rol, anggaplah nasihat yang diberi itu adalah untuk diri kita. Dan cubalah amal mana yang mampu.
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