Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
Time for more fun, frolics and freakiness from the deepest darkest depths of the
world wide web.
the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook
are revealed for all to see!
I wonder if Harvey Norman, Dick Smith, Noel Leeming and all those other
large electronic retailers will review their policy of employing people
with only minimal knowledge of the products they sell after
story gets a little more coverage?
For goodness sake, don't visit this site unless the boss is going to be out
of the office for at least 20 minutes. I normally avoid online games
because the good ones normally involve downloading and installing software
on your PC (risky) and the others tend to have such poor gameplay that they're
just not worth bothering with. Well
here is a Flash game
that surprised me and explains why today's edition is a little late.
It *is* a very simple concept but still decidedly captivating -- give it a try.
At the end of a week when expensive computer upgrades have been a topic
for debate, Project EUNUCH
is a great example of how to teach an old dog new tricks.
Need Cutting-Edge Copy?|
As NZ's longest-running online commentator, I'm looking for
extra syndication opportunities for this daily publication -- or I'm happy
to write casual or regular material specifically to order for print or
Net-based publications. If you're
interested, drop me a line
The Great Web Fraud?
An anonymous reader emailed me yesterday to complain that they were being
ripped off by their ISP.
Like so many service providers these days, his ISP uses a transparent
web-proxy with very agressive caching.
For those who don't understand those terms -- here's a quick tutorial:
In the good old days (when Net access cost $5/MB or more), typing the
address of a web page into your browser or clicking on a hypertext link
would establish a connection from your computer to the webserver responsible
for dishing out that information.
The requested page(s) would be delivered directly (albeit after bouncing
across any number of other computers) to your screen. None of these
other computers through which the data passed would change it in any way --
they simply relayed the data verbatim.
However, this isn't necessarily the most efficient or effective way to do things.
There are a huge number of "static" pages on the Web that haven't changed since
the first day they were put up. Likewise, even on regularly updated pages
there are often graphic images that are almost never changed from day to day
or even year to year.
It doesn't seem to make much sense that this identical information should be
downloaded all the way from the USA or even further afield every time a local
websurfer loads the page does it?
This is where the caching proxy servers come in.
By passing all its customers requests for webpages through a caching proxy,
the ISP is able to build a library containing "local copies" of the most
commonly accessed webpages and graphics.
Now when your browser requests a page or graphic from an overseas site, the
ISPs system will first check to see whether it can deliver that information
from its own cache rather than from overseas.
This sounds like a win-win situation doesn't it? The ISP can handle more
users for a given amount of overseas bandwidth because many of the most
commonly requested pages can be served up from the cache. Customers find
that their websurfing experience is faster because the data need only
travel from the ISP's servers to their PC rather than half way around the
In the good old days (even when the price Net access had fallen to $2.50/hr),
many ISPs offered their users the OPTION of using their caching
proxy server. If you wanted faster Net surfing then you could elect to
enter the proxy-server's address into your browser's preferences -- if not
then you could still bypass the proxy.
But why wouldn't you want to use a caching proxy server if it makes web-access
so much faster in many cases?
Simple -- these devices aren't perfect. Sometimes they get screwed up and
that makes it impossible to reach websites that are actually functioning
perfectly well. There's also a more insidious aspect: some ISPs use
caches that are wound up too high and which don't check often enough to
ensure that the local copies of the web pages actually match those actually
being served up by the site concerned.
A good example of this is Aardvark's own pages.
Even after I've updated this site each morning, XTRA's cache continues
to dish up yesterday's edition. Simply entering aardvark.co.nz into the
browser won't actually get you the latest edition of this column -- and
that's bad, very bad.
I could argue in fact that XTRA is breaching my copyright by copying and
publishing the previous day's edition without permission.
The only way to get at the *real* contents of today's edition is
to force a reload by hitting refresh button.
Aardvark's site is not alone in this. Just check out the following screen
dumps taken just a few seconds apart when I was accessing the NewsBytes
website this morning:
when typing www.newsbytes.com
into my browser and
hitting refresh just a couple of seconds later.
So why all the bitching?
Well as mentioned above -- users used to be able to choose whether or not
their websurfing requests were handled by a caching proxy server -- but these
days many ISPs have removed the option and force all traffic through their
often flaky systems. The result appears to be an increased incidence of
sites that appear to be down (but aren't) and a plethora of outdated pages
that don't reflect the current content of the requested websites.
Now there are ways for website operators to force properly configured web-caches not
to keep local copies of selected pages (such as the "expires" meta-tag)
-- but these aren't always practical when you're trying to publish something
that may (or may not) be updated at any time rather than to a regular
schedule. Some search engines will also ignore content that, according
to its meta-tags, has already "expired."
So yes, maybe this is the great web fraud. When you request a web-page do
you expect to be given an old, outdated copy of yesterday's news -- or does
your ISP have a responsibility to deliver exactly the same information
that the site's webserver is currently dishing out?
Does any lawyer out there want to make a name for themselves by taking
a case against XTRA for unauthorised republication of this column in a
manner that adversely devalues the brand by representing that its content
is out of date?
hard time I, and some readers, gave the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade earlier this week, I received
this right of reply
which elaborates on the details provided in the story on the Stuff
Top marks MFAT for taking the time to provide this extra information and
clarifying the situation.
Have Your Say
As always, your comments are welcomed. Please remember to select
"For Publication" if you want them included on this site.
Have your say.
Due to other higher-priority calls on my time and resources over the coming
days, the publication of this column may be a little erratic.
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible however.
The Jet-Kart is For Sale
Check out the latest bid.
It's time to clear out the closet here at Aardvark's country residence so I'm
having a bit of a garage sale. I need to spend a whole lot more time
and money on my jet engine R&D activities (now that the defense industry
has shown a very real interest) -- so I'm trying to scrape up some more cash.
The world-famous Jet-powered Gokart is up for sale by
way of an informal auction. Send me your bid and I'll post the current
highest offer on the bidding page.
As far as I'm aware, this is the only pulsejet-powered gokart in the
Southern Hemisphere -- I wonder why that is?
It may not be the quietest, smoothest, most comfortable or safest vehicle
in the world -- but it's sure different!
To place a bid, just drop me a line.
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