Tuesday: 29.March.2005

Tweaking style & format of ads

Been tinkering with the style & format of the ads. (Refer to the home page.) Was hoping to simply use one of Google's pre-designed styles (color schemes), since they offer a dozen varieties. But it looks like I'm going to have to play designer, which is not my strong suit.

The biggest change is adding a vertical tower (Google calls it a "skyscraper"). Took me while to figure out how to do that. I went to other site's that displayed this style of ad & noticed (view source) they coded in a separate "table" around the ad. So I ripped off (copied) their code & did likewise.

My goal is to maximize clicks with minimal intrusiveness. Note that I didn't use the "wide skyscraper", which hosts 5 ads instead of the 4 you see. Trying to avoid getting greedy.

Google only pays for clicks, so clicks, not number, or prominence, of ads is the goal. I had originally devised my own design, but trashed that and decided to use Google's optimization guide. I figure they're the experts & know what's best. No sense in re-inventing the wheel. What you see now conforms to their suggested guidelines:

••• continued •••

• Show your ads above the fold (section of your page visible without scrolling). It will make the ads more readily visible & increase opportunity for clicks
• Make the background color of the ad the same as or similar to the background color of your page.
• Make the border of the ad similar to a color that is prominent on your page.
• Make the title of the ad a color that is similar to the text on your page.
• Make the URL of the ad a color similar to other link colors on your page.

With the *white* background pages however, I'm breaking with convention. See the Ghost guide, for example, the site's most popular feature. There the background of the ads match not the page, but the negative space bordering the page. (The home page has no such negative space.) What do you think? Too different?

UPDATE: After running these ads, which go contrary to Google's advice, I noticed the "click-thru rate" plummeted. Maybe I shouldn't re-invent the wheel. So I am returning them to a color-scheme that conforms to Google's guidelines. I still think they *look* better the other way, but Google's way bring more clicks. [end update]

I don't want the ads to be distracting. I want them to complement the page, yet be distinguishable from regular content in a tasteful manner.

Still playing around with the design. Like with the rest of the site, it may take some time before I arrive at a design that feels right for Radified (clean, clear). There's something therapeutic about the creativity of design. All my education is in math/science/physics. Not much room for creativity there.

I appreciate your feedback (& clicks). Probably shoulda done this long ago. Surprising how many people click the ads. Who'd a-thunk it?

More about my foray into the world of ads posted here:> Google's AdSense, and here:> Your AdSense Application has been approved and here:> Pasting AdSense code into web pages.

[Comments closed due to problems with blog-s*p*a*m*m*i*n*g.]

Posted by Rad at Tuesday: 29March2005

Monday: 28.March.2005

Supreme court hears MGM vs Grokster file-sharing case

Titans clash this week. Hollywood squares off against the Tech industry. The Entertainment industry heads to the Supreme Court, where they'll try for a third time to bend the US legal system to their will and reverse two California court decisions that protect makers of file-sharing software.

••• continued •••

They want the courts to outlaw Grokster, and similar peer-to-peer file-sharing software, which make it easy to share files over the Internet. Sony, in particular, finds itself in an interesting position, with one foot in each world, since they manufacturer & market both technology & entertainment.

In fact, it's Sony's landmark Betamax case (1984) that sets legal precedent for tomorrow's case. Twenty years ago, the courts declared Sony not liable if people use their product to copy (copyrighted) movies from television.

[Betamax was quickly superseded by VHS, which is now yielding to the increasingly popular DVD format. Unlike VHS & Betamax, which are both analog formats, DVD is digital, which makes it easy to send over the Internet, and it suffers no generational loss during the copying process, as do analog formats.]

Feels like a heavyweight championship fight, in Madison Square Garden. MGM vs Grokster. Always entertaining to see the behemoths go toe to toe, especially now that Mark Cuban is going to fund the Grokster case.

Reuters calls it "one of the most important copyright cases in history," and paints a more Biblical scenario: David (little ol' Grokster) vs sue-happy Goliath (28 of the biggest companies from the Entertainment industry). I see it as the Geeks vs the movie stars.

PCWorld says, "nothing less than the future of technological innovation is at stake." The Electronic Frontier Foundation discusses the issues here. San Francisco Chronicle did a nice write-up here. Boston Phoenix editorial: Grok This is the best piece I've read. Editor of P2Pnet, Jon Newton, discusses the Crux of the Issue: "maybe consumers think many of their products just aren't worth paying for".

Maybe we'll see some lawyers spill blood. This should be on Pay-per-View.

[Comments closed due to problems with blog-s*p*a*m*m*i*n*g.]

Posted by Rad at Monday: 28March2005

Saturday: 26.March.2005

E-dawg surfs Costa Rica

[from the Rad mailbox - from Evan, a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara]

Surf's been small, compared to what I dreamed of. Of the 7 days I surfed so far, only 3 have been shoulder-high or better. But the shape of the wave is still amazing. Playa Grande was super-hollow, not very fast. Avellanes was similar: tube-city. A break called Guillones was similar to Tressels in San Clemente, with a super-long rippable wave.

Marvella had another good wave: head-high powerful surf when there was nothing else out there. Got the sickest left there. Tomorrow is my last day of surf camp. We'll surf Witch's and Ollies! Pray for surf! Also surfed Playa Negra when it was small and shallow. Got 3 dings in my board that day. They call it Playa Negra because you can see the sharp, black lava-rock reef below. Gnarly.

••• continued •••

Found a place to stay in Tamarindo i that has all the essentials (bed, shower, krapper) for 11 bucks a night! Pura vida, baby! Otherwise, prices have been decent: 5 bucks for a decent meal. I'm told, here in Tamarindo, prices are double everywhere else in the country.

As for the ticas (ooh-la-la), I been talking to a few, but haven't got any closer.

Surf conditions are perfect in the morning (offshore or glassy). Surf tours leave between 5:30 and 8:30 am, in concert with 4-6 hour surfing days. Leaves little time to party. Lots of hot babes, though. Everybody is friendly. Maybe tomorrow I'll do a little partying, since no more surf tours.

Only thing that suks about Costa Rica is this rash I have. It's spreading all over my body. At first I just had this little rash on my arm. So I ignored it. Then it started spreading, and I was like, uh, okay, maybe I'm having an allergic reaction to something. The next day it was on my other arm. Now it's on my stomach and spreading to my thigh. Maybe I was stung by a "agua mala" (jelly fish). Not cool. Not pura vida, baby.

Oh my god, I am having such fun speaking Spanish. They have been teaching me all these dirty slang words. All this time and effort I spent learning Spanish suddenly seems worth it.


I'm a changed man. Costa Rica changes you. An hour from Playa Coco lies the best shaped waves I've ever surfed.

Trip began 5:30, with bloodshot eyes and not enough sleep. Threw down some scrambled eggs, bacon & toast on the way to Playa Coco. Bought some coconuts after we arrived and had the tastiest coconut milk in the world.

Took a boat-ride at 7AM up the Guanacaste coast through an un-touched national park. Being low tide, we headed up to Olies. Pulled into a cove with sheer cliffs and sparse vegetation. In the
distance, we could see a beach with dark sand. Could this be the point break we'd all heard about? Growing near, we could see perfectly-shaped waves peeling off jet-black rocks. The sight of these six-footers blew away any residual lethargery from our pre-dawn departure.

The rivermouth had the most perfect waves I've ever seen. Every one was identical to the wave before it, like they were being made by a machine .. hollow, fast, fun as hell. Ollies rules.

When the tide rose, the waves stopped breaking. So we left for Witch's: another epic wave. Only this one wasn't a point, but rather beach break with 10 peaks. Waves up & down the coast, far as the eye could see. Off-shores were pretty strong. Again, perfect surfing conditions. Simply amazing.

Waves were should-high, with an occasional head-high set. Funniest part of Witch's was when we had to leave and were paddling out to the boat. The boat came closer to where the waves were breaking so our tired arms didn't have to paddle so hard. I pulled myself into the boat with a sigh of exhaustion. Looking out to sea, I see a 6-foot bomb heading toward us. So I jumped out of the boat and gave it all I had to catch the wave. I caught this six-foot bomb almost at the boat. Good times.

Everyone was silent most of the boat ride back. The waves were sooo epic and we were so surfed-out that we couldn't even talk.

But enough of this 11-dollar-a-night thing. I need some AC to heal this rash, and do some reading to make up for the classes I'm missing in the states.

I was planning to go to Croatia this summer for language school, but I'm not so sure any more. I am really shaken up. My perspective has changed.

I recommend you take the opportunity next chance you get to hop on a jet & b-line it down here to Costa Rica. This is the most relaxed I've felt in a long time. "Pura Vida" (pure life) is an understatement of life here.

See you all soon. A ton of photos when I get back.


PS - Hope you all can attend my lecture next month at UCSB about the "fallacy of one diet fits all approach to nutrition" and metabolic

Google search for query "surf costa rica"

[Comments closed]

Posted by Rad at Saturday: 26March2005

Thursday: 24.March.2005

Cell Phone Etiquette

Had a conversation today on the topic of cell phone etiquette. Why is it, when two people have a face-to-face conversation in public, it seems perfectly natural? Yet when one person talks on a cell - say, in a restaurant, for example - it seems distracting, annoying, rude even?

••• continued •••

Since you're hearing only half the chatter, you'd think it would be less annoying. But, try as I might, it's difficult for my ear to avoid eavesdropping. And the harder I try, the worse it gets.

My brain automatically tries to decipher what the other person is saying. The unheard half of the dialogue becomes an irresistible puzzle. Where does this natural Sherlock Holmes comes from? It can't be noisiness, cuz I really don't care what they're saying. Actually, I wish they would go away. Vaporize. But if someone is having a heated argument, that's another story. I wanna hear every word. =D

Now if I'm the one talking on the cell, I see nothing wrong. I simply keep my voice low, to avoid broadcasting personal business. But if someone else does the same, err, how rude. The first of the Ten Cell Phone Commandments is:

Thou shalt not subject defenseless others to cell phone conversations. When people cannot escape the banality of your conversation, such as on the bus, in a cab, on a grounded airplane, or at the dinner table, you should spare them. People around you should have the option of not listening. If they don't, you shouldn't be babbling.

Interesting they list this one *first*. I've given it some serious thought, and my theory as to why this is so annoying is: We already have enough voices in our heads. =) Similar list posted here and here.

Google search for the terms: cell phone etiquette

[comments closed]

Posted by Rad at Thursday: 24March2005

Monday: 21.March.2005

Pasting Google's AdSense code into web pages

Been busy incorporating Google's AdSense code into these web pages. Tedious work. Copy-paste-upload-check .. copy-paste-upload-check. There's more pages than I thought. My eyes are bleeding.

Had a heck of a time with the blog, which is controlled by a suite of *templates*. The blog currently contains some 172 entries/pages, which I originally thought I'd have to edit individually. That would've been a nightmare. But I was able to add the code to *one* template (individual archive template), which subsequently updated all 172 pages. (Thanks to the folks at MovableType forums for guidance.) Whew.

••• continued •••

And thanks for all the letters of encouragement. Most convey sentiments similar to this one:

Hi Rad.

Go for it! I'm completely in favor of you participating in Google's AdSense program.
You deserve some revenue for all the hard work you done. I'm sure you could use it
to help defray the costs you've incurred running and maintaining your site.

Best wishes.

I started coding ads into the most popular features first, such as the Ghost guide, which is the site's single most popular feature. Then the ASPI guide, the FDISK guide, the guide to Ripping & Encoding CD audio. You get the picture.

I'm reluctant however, to run ads at the forums, even tho there are a thousand pages (threads) there. People who offer their technical expertise to those in need of help shouldn't have to look at ads. And that might prevent me from feeling like a total sell-out.

I've been surprised by numbers Google is reporting. It's turning out to be more than I expected. Heck, I might even be able to move RADIFIED to its own dedicated server if things keep up like this, instead of sharing this server (physically located in Atlanta) with other sites, like I do now.

Yesterday for example, Google reported 9,183 "page impressions", with 226 clicks, with a "click-thru rate" of 2.5%. And Sundays are usually slow. More on these stats later.

Back to the coding mines. Here in Rad-land, it's amazing how quickly the site has gone from, "That damn web site," to "That great web site of yours." Virtually overnight. =) Thanks again for the support.

[Blog comments closed due to problems with spammers.]

Posted by Rad at Monday: 21March2005

Saturday: 19.March.2005

Your AdSense application has been approved

Received a note today from the folks at Google:

••• continued •••

Congratulations! Your AdSense application has been approved!

STEP 1: Activate your account.

STEP 2: Paste AdSense code into your web pages. Just follow the instructions on the 'Ad layout code'. Google ads will begin running on your pages within minutes.

STEP 3: See the results. You can check your earnings at any time. Note: you might not maximize earnings if your site contains any of the following:

• robots.txt
• frames
• forms and dynamic content
• excessive images
• login and password requirements

I tried to make the ads un-invasive as possible. A snippet of Javascript code needs to be pasted code into every web page (that I want to run ads on). With thousands of pages, it's tedious work.

Google lets me select the style/format. I picked the banner (468x60) and put it at the top of the page, where the search feature used to be. Moved the search feature down to the bottom. Google picks the ads. Looks like they change with each refresh. Interesting to see which ads they think will work. At least they don't flicker. I hate animated ads (annoying, distracting).

They make no money unless clicked on. The article I read last week said: you'd be surprised how many people click the ads. Hopefully they'll make enough to cover hosting costs.

Now I have to go back & edit the About Radified page to remove the part where I brag about not selling out. =/ Umm, crow. Yummy.

[Blog comments closed due to problems with spam.]

Posted by Rad at Saturday: 19March2005

Friday: 18.March.2005

Sinn Fein & the IRA

[For those not familair with Sinn Fein (pronounced Shin Fey-n), see here: SinnFein.org, and here: Wikipedia. Frontline has an excellent report here, especially this page for a history of the conflict, and here for a primer on Sinn Fein.]

[from the mailbox]

As you may know, the New York metro area is heavily Irish, so this issue with Sinn Fein and the IRA is a big deal. What’s happened is that Sinn Fein has become just another political party, albeit with a paramilitary army (the IRA) behind it.

Sinn Fein is probably hitting its peak in popularity, because many people in Ireland still see it as a revolutionary party, but they’ve become hacks like any others. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, both IRA men, were heroes at one time, but are increasingly becoming Mandela-like, whereby their political ineptness is creating problems.

The Sinn Fein they lead is more accurately called Provisional Sinn Fein (PSM) in Ireland, because there are other still-revolutionary groups that lay claim to the title, which is the original revolutionary party from 1916. PSM stepped into the fray in 1969 and did much good for Irish Nationalists and Catholics. They were proud of their links to the Provisional IRA, made up of kids who took over the defense after the Official IRA (now gone) lost their nerve in the 60’s.

Now, Sinn Fein has negotiated their way back to what was on offer in the early 80’s, and people are pissed.

People still love Gerry Adams here in New Jersey and New York. He’s here at the moment, and he gets NYPD escorts. But his time is short, I think. He’s being forced to disband the IRA, which may cause physical-force adherents in Ireland to begin following one of the two main IRA splinter groups (Continuity IRA and Real IRA).

••• continued •••

The Brits still rule the six northern counties in Ireland, with a standing British military police force. Photo below is one I took last, showing two soldiers on the street near a police station in Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland. The police towers are designed as such because the IRA used rocket-propelled grenades.

police tower

The photo below shows a typical police Land Cruiser, heavily armored. More than 90% of the police are Protestant, and unlike here in the United States, Protestants and Catholics do not get along well in Ireland. The cemetery in the background is Milltown, where Bobby Sands and many other Irish Republicans are buried. The photo beside it shows how a police station was built to watch over IRA funerals and activities. In recent years, Irish republicans responded by building The Felons Club directly next door. A very high percentage of Catholics between the ages of 30 and 50 were imprisoned at one time and are now ineligible for most work and travel to the US.

armored vehicle police station

Enough with my rant. How’s everything with you & the family?

Google search for query: sinn fein ira irish republican army

Posted by Rad at Friday: 18March2005

Thursday: 17.March.2005

Google AdSense

Happy St. Patty's day. Erin go braugh and the luck of the Irish.

I've been researching Google's AdSense program, in which they pay for clicks. For year's I've endeavored to maintain a purist site, unadulterated, free from the evil influences of capitalism.

But there was an interesting write-up on AdSense in the business section of USA Today last week (the 11th). The program seems pretty straightforward. You submit your site. Google reviews it to see how their ads might play out. You add code to your site to incorporate their ads. Go to your mailbox and collect your check.

••• continued •••

I read their FAQ. They say you'll never know how much your site might earn until you apply. But they pay more than I expected. I thought it would be only pennies per click.

RAD site usage has been growing steadily the last few years, with monthly hits now exceeding the 2 million mark. The Ghost guide remains the site's single most popular feature. Ye Olde Rad Blog is like a separate site unto itself, with all kinds of diverse content. The forums see lots of traffic, too. Other popular features are listed aqui. The site contains literally thousands of pages.

Okay, I went ahead and applied. Pretty painless. They had me create an account, and sent an email that said "click here to verify your email address". They also insisted on a street address (wouldn't accept my PO Box). We'll see what happens.

The fear is that ads = spam, thereby compromising site integrity. Critics feel content will be written specifically for ads ("Hey, let me tell you about my new Remington Microshield shaver with the flip-top sideburn trimmer. My face feels so smooth now."). These concerns are valid.

Readers have long encouraged me to throw up some ads. The site was born in the summer of 2000, so it's been almost 5 years without a single pop-up. Looks like the dawn of a new age has arrived here in Rad-land.

Posted by Rad at Thursday: 17March2005

Friday: 11.March.2005

Nomad Mike's World Tour update v5


Sunny day here in Nairobi, ~75 degrees with sporadic clouds hinting at rain. Hope all is well there.

Attached are a couple of photos sent to me by my dive partner Drew Friesen, who had a new underwater digital camera he was putting thru its paces. He somehow found the patience to take a shot of me. There were many more interesting creatures there. The photos I included are taken from one of my Red Sea dives, a couple of weeks ago.


Just returned from a 9 day / 1200 kilometer safari to the Northern Kenya area where I saw rhinos, elephants, giraffe, antelope, springbok, dik-dik, water-buck, eland, jackal, garenuk, buffalo, warthog, monkeys, baboons, etc. Lots of bird life, too, which include many species. Ostrich on the large side to bee-eaters on the small side. Flamingos by the thousands feed in the shallow waters of Lake Nakuru.

Highlighting the birds was a rare "Greater Bustard" sighting. I found it off a long stretch of grinding road away from any parks or towns. So I felt no hesitancy to stray out toward it after a good viewing from 150 yards. It must have been 4 feet tall. Perhaps more. We had several bird watchers along on the safari but they thought this bird could not fly (like an ostrich). Naturally I walked out to scare it up to see if it could fly. It did. Huge wingspan, a grand sight. I'll have some Safari photos ready soon to share.

Answers to common questions (FAQs):

Where do you sleep?
Budget accommodations. Hostels, campsites, single or shared rooms. Availability differs from place to place but the world has opened up to budget travelers providing rooms from $2.75 in Egypt to $ $8.00 in Africa, $5 in the middle east, $17-20 in Europe (Western).

What do you eat?
Food can be found similarly cheap, good, and safe.

Cannot can be found similarly cheap, good, and safe.

Most surprising thing?
How easy it is to travel once you take the first couple of steps.

Biggest disappointment?
Nothing is coming to mind...

Most difficult challenge?
Dealing with "touts" whom try to sway travelers to their services of offering / directing to: rooms, food, various services, etc.. they are aggressive sometimes, thieves sometimes, worse probably once in a while.

Hope all is well for you and the family!

Nomad Mike

Posted by Rad at Friday: 11March2005 | Comments (0)

Sunday: 06.March.2005

The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro) - Best Foreign Language Film

Saw The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro) last night. Based on a true story. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. I originally planned to see Hotel Rwanada, but changed my mind while standing in line when a couple came out of the theater and stopped to chat with the people behind me, who asked what movie they saw.

When the guy said, "The Sea Inside," I turned and asked him how it was. I could tell from the look in his eye and by the way he said, "Excellent," that he was impressed. So I changed my mind. I wasn't planning to see it cuz I knew what it was about and it sounded depressing.

••• continued •••

Well, it was depressing. Very depressing. Made me cry. Felt like somebody thru a spear thru my heart and twisted it. It was difficult to watch. I almost got up & walked out several times, especially when he read a poem he'd written, titled: To the son I never had. Oh man, that was sad. But it was also excellent, like the guy said. Easy to see why it won the Oscar. The subtitles didn't even bother me with this film, like they normally do with most foreign films.

Moving would a be a good way to describe it. Definitely makes you appreciate life more, no matter how miserable your situation might be.

I just realized that both Million Dollar Baby, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, and The Sea Inside, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, both have the same theme. If you plan on seeing either, don't click the next link. But if you're not, or already have, the theme of both is posted HERE. Could this be merely a coincidence?

Posted by Rad at Sunday: 06March2005 | Comments (0)

Saturday: 05.March.2005

Downfall - Inside Hitler's Bunker

Saw Downfall last night: film about Hitler's last days in his bunker. Based on historical archives from people who were there, presented in the book Der Untergang. (English version: Inside Hitler's Bunker). German dialogue with English subtitles. Strong reviews. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Wikipedia has this to say:

>> The film is neither a paean nor a denunciation of Hitler or the crimes his Nazi regime perpetrated,
>> it is moreover a testament based on eyewitness accounts and the personal testimony of the people who knew the Fόhrer.

This is how I prefer historical information presented: objectively as possible, allowing me (the viewer) to form my own opinions, come to my own conclusions. Obviously, I realize it's difficult to separate anything about Hitler from the subjectivity of emotion, but I feel this film succeeded better than most I've seen at trying to present the information as objectively as possible.

••• continued •••

In other words, I didn't come away feeling like the film tried to persuade me to feel one way or another. Some pieces on Hitler contain the word "evil" in the title. Not that Hitler wasn't an evil man, but that suggests a bias, and I prefer to form my own biases, thank-you. =/ No person with a brain enjoys being told how they should think or feel about something, and we know when we're being steered in a certain direction.

Saw it at the Lido in Newport Beach: one of the few old-fashioned movies houses still operating. Place was comfortably full. Never seen so many people there. Only a few rows up front remained empty. Last night was opening night. Felt like a premiere. I noticed many older gentlemen accompanied by younger girls, which I suspect were their daughters. Can't be sure, tho. Merely an observation I found interesting.

Another surprising observation: the word "Jew" was only mentioned once or twice. Normally, documentaries involving Hitler spend considerable time addressing the holocaust. Not so here. In the film, Hitler was preoccupied with the status of his armies. I mean, more time was paid to his preference for vegetarian meals/food. I didn't know Hitler was a vegetarian. I had him pegged for a serious carnivore.

The sound in this film was perhaps the most remarkable aspect. I mean, it really sounded like you were in an underground bunker with bombs dropping above. I'm not sure if this is because the Lido has such a good sound system, or if it would sound the same in any theater, but yes, the sound of the bombs exploding in the city seemed very realistic, making it easy for me to imagine I was actually in an underground bunker, and that bombs were exploding above, echoing throughout the entire bunker .. getting louder/closer as the movie/Russians progressed/advanced.

Anyway, the film offered a perspective not usually found, especially when you consider history is written by the victors. The film is very well done. I can see why it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. If you're a history buff, or, like me, intrigued by extremes of human experience, I suspect you might also enjoy this film. If war and violence offend you, this film is not for you.

Posted by Rad at Saturday: 05March2005 | Comments (0)