YouTube just released a major re-design of their site. Cleaning things up a lot and moving around a lot of things. The comment system looks very funky to me without threaded replies and stuff, but maybe they’ll fix that.

On thing that I really like that they’ve fixed is the rating system. Before it was a 5-star system where everyone either voted 5 stars or not at all. It was really fundamentally broken. They’ve replaced that entirely now with like/dislike buttons; awesome decision!

In their new design they’ve snuck in an April fools feature as well. (I just hope the entire re-design isn’t an April fools joke, because some of it is really good)

The April fools feature is this:

You can watch videos in TEXTp resolution!
In other words, it transforms the video into colored ASCII art as you can see above, a sort of text-mode video! Tooootally awesome! I hope they keep the feature just because it’s totally awesomely geeky fun!

# Updates to the new design

So I made some updates to the design according to peoples wishes. I added a link to the comments in the bottom so after reading a post you can easily get to them. I also rewrote some parts of the CSS to try to fix a floating-problem in IE6. Apparently the sidebar was pushed down below the content. I think that problem was partly IE6′s fault but partly the resolutions fault as well. I did some rudimentary tests for IE6 but the resolution was pretty big on all of them. My statistics so far says the following about the resolutions you readers are using.

Resolution statistics

About 25% have a 1024×768 resolution size. Seriously people? By contrast, this is what a 1024×768 window looks on my left screen.

Left screen resolution example

It never struck me that anyone could have a resolution that small, but to accommodate this I’ve made the design a bit smaller in width.

I hope it looks better for those 25% of you now. Please report in the comments if there are any more issues!

I also removed Hyphenator.js, as it made all the content “refresh”, causing a very annoying blinking-thing to happen every time you loaded a page. I hope the justified text will still look acceptable without it.

# The reason for TetrisRockstar

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There is no real reason that I chose the domain name tetrisrockstar.com. I just sort of thought of it and liked how it sounded. I love tetris and I aim to be a figurative rockstar at whatever it is I’m doing.

But I did say that there was a story in my child-hood that I related too. It’s not a very special story, but as a kid I had one of these:

Mr 9999 Brick Game 9999 in 1

I remember playing with it for hours every day for months. It had 9999 games, but they were all small weird variations on basically 10 kinds of games, pretty f-ed up when I think about it. Anyhow, all I ever played on it was the regular Tetris. By the end, I really rocked at Tetris. I can still enjoy the occasional Tetris game and I consider myself pretty good at it.

So when I first thought of tetrisrockstar.com, I thought of myself as a kid, being a total Rockstar at Tetris.

# Creating a new blog

Almost exactly one year ago I thought of a cool name for my blog; “TetrisRockstar”. I liked it immediately and I could find a clear story in my childhood that would fit in with the name. Luckily tetrisrockstar.com was free as well, and April 09 I bought it.

Then began the arduous task of trying to find a new theme for the blog. I didn’t just want to switch the name and keep the theme, and I wanted a really good theme that preferably fit the name well. For about six months I regularly looked around for free or \$20-\$100 themes, but I never found anything that was really what I was looking for.

I then saw Matt Mullenwegs’ new blog and he had a fantastic huge graphic at the top of the blog. So big it obscured the rest of the blog, but I thought it was gorgeous. So I started looking for a designer that could give me something like that. I spend 3 months looking for a designer, I found a total of 4 designers that I thought could give me what I wanted and offered them each around \$600 for a Photoshop file with a layout and some nice graphics. \$600 is a pretty low amount, but it’s not like I was asking for multiple page-designs or any coding or anything like that, just one piece of graphic. I don’t think it was insultingly low, but 2 of the 4 designers didn’t answer once I said what I was willing to pay and the other half simply said the project was too small.

After realizing I would have to pay much more than I was comfortable with to get a nice design, I started working on one on my own. At least that would give me something personal. I wanted something a little retro/gaming-related for the tetris- part of the name and something a little grungy for the -rockstar part of the name. I found a theme on WooThemes that I thought was pretty OK, but needed quite a lot of tweaking to look like I wanted, so I started remaking it from the start and changed the things I wanted along the way.

First version of the blog

So this was the first draft that I came up with after a couple of hours in Photoshop. It had like, the elements that I wanted, the tetris-block, some more advanced graphics in the top and a grungy background. Unfortunately it looked like crap. I then tried some different approaches to this design.

Second version with top banner

Cleaned up version

The banner didn’t turn out as awesome and illustrative as I wanted, so I tried doing a really clean version, basically removing everything I wasn’t 100% satisfied with. But then obviously it needed something else.

I then found this awesome piece of graphic, the koi fish. Normally I hate koi fish, they’re a super-tired stereotype and I don’t even think they look that good graphically. But this one had something I really liked. I paid the designer £40 to use it on my blog and then I started incorporating it. In retrospect I should have paid once I was sure I was going to use it

Koi fish version

This I was actually pretty happy with, but the boxes on the right took up way too much attention and the whole design was very boxy. So I tried getting rid of the boxes in several different ways, spurring the following redesigns.

Removed boxes and added title "banners"

Removed right content entirely and made fish more prominent.

Changed titles and removed big boxes

Tried doing a different more clean top

A little more grunge, but still clean top

Following the same design but trying different things

I drew this tetris-block by hand

The second version I was very satisfied with

The reason I didn’t stop here was that I wasn’t entirely happy that I hadn’t gotten in all the links I wanted and there were still some.. problems with it, that I couldn’t really put my finger on. I also checked my statistics and it seems like a lot of you use the “Latest Comments” out on the side to see if there are new comments on the blog. So I wanted to get that back into the design.

I had a long stand-still here. Finally I found Spencer Frys’ blog and Max Voltars’ blog at the same time, and thought I could combine their best parts into one design that I would be happy with. This resulted in the following revisions.

New design with Web 2.0 top

Ultra-clean version

Finally I came to some sort of conclusion that I was happy with.

Medium-clean version with koi

I asked around a little among friends what I should do with this and the first suggestion was change the font. So I drew this up to see what I should choose from. Can you spot the one I chose?

Title fonts

Emma didn’t really like the koi fish, so I tried putting in the tetris block instead of that. I really couldn’t make that work though, I felt it ruined the flow of the design. Emanuel also had some good suggestions to change the top, the bottom and to add a little color by randomizing the divider tetrisblock.

The design with a clean tetris block

The design with my hand-drawn tetris block

Then I finally came up with a good version and make some minor tweak to get it as I really wanted.

Final design

Final design with final tweaks

So now I had a design. That approximately took three or four months to get to
I have now spent this entire weekend coding it up. The frames you can see in the pictures above are made entire in HTML and CSS3. That means it’s supported by the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera; but NOT by Microsofts Internet Explorer. Those of you using IE will unfortunately have to live with the old grey frames. It makes the design look much worse than it is, but I can’t get myself to only using 90′s technology because Microsoft refuses to update their browser.

Anyway, the frames were a problem in themselves to produce. I wanted frames on all the old pictures as well. Throughout the past I’ve used about 4-5 different ways to import pictures into blog posts. In the latest posts I’ve used something called wp-caption. Which is this grey frame with a caption underneath. In the past I’ve just imported the pictures straight in, but my frames needed to handle a bunch of different cases. Sometimes I have multiple pictures next to each other, sometimes they float left, sometimes they float left. And most of the times the picture should just be centered on a row by itself. For the frames to work at all, the picture needs to be surrounded by two div’s with classes frame and image. So to make everything work, I spent around 5-6 hours on writing the following script. Handling the insertion of these two divs in a proper way.

[gist id=346739]

So finally. I have something that works for everyone but the people on IE, and I hope it looks acceptable for those people, even if it’s not as awesome as on Firefox/Chrome/Safari/Opera.

I have also changed the commenting system so you can now login using a range of different options, or of course continue commenting as guest as always! You can now like comments and reply directly to comments as well. I think the new commenting system is pretty nice. Use it to say what you think! I’ll leave a little poll here in the end to gather opinion as well. But of course, if you have anything to say, do so! For those of you using IE and want to see what this blog posts looks like on another browser, click this link.

[poll id="2"]

# Out biking today!

Awesome weather today as well so I went for a bike-ride!
It’s still a little cold so my throat sort of starts to hurt. But anyway, was kind of fun! I think I was out for a little more than an hour. I used an iPhone app to track my ride and you can see the route below.

# Making pancakes

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Wondering why I’m making pancakes at 11pm? I have no fucking clue.

If I were unemployed, I’d probably just make pancakes 24/7. But then I’d be a baker, so then I wouldn’t be unemployed, so I wouldn’t make pancakes, and I’d loose my job.

# Tokyo Vice

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Tokyo Vice

I just finished reading Tokyo Vice. It’s a book about being a journalist in Japan, about the Japanese sex industry and about the Japanese mob (yakuza).

The book markets itself as being very much about the yakuza and revealing some amazing stories about the yakuza, and it does. The only problem I had with it is that it’s equally as much about the authors life in Japan and the sex industry. The information about the sex industry was just as interesting, if not more interesting, than the information about the yakuza though. The information about the authors life was, well, a 4 out of 10 read.

I would recommend the book, but only if you really can’t find anything better to read for the moment or are truly interested in reading about true investigative journalism.

I now know, perhaps more than I wanted, about the Japanese sex industry, human trafficking and the workings of the yakuza. Although I have two upcoming books that cover the sex industry and the yakuza respectively, so in a while I’ll know even more about it.

One funny little factoid I found in the book that was humorous is a weird way was that one of the biggest types of front-company for the yakuza is management consulting. Apparently a lot of yakuza are “management consultants”.

# Muting all Xbox chat

Tired of 14 year old kids trying to be cool by swearing a lot on Xbox chat? Yeah, me too. So I figured out a solution!

When you have your headset plugged in, the sounds obviously goes to the headset, but I don’t want to hear anything at all and I don’t want a headset dangling from the control. So if you could just have the end of the headset (the 2.5 mm plug) and plug that in, it would effectively mute all sound.

When I bought my latest pair of headsets I got three of these 2.5 mm to 3.5 mm adapters with the headset (and I don’t need any of them) so this is what I did.

Cutting off the cord

Just the end of the adapter

What it looks like with the end plugged in

And now I don’t have to listen to any more annoying pissed off american kids or germans talking fast! Maybe I should start selling these? What do you think?

I could make it an official Xbox accessory and charge \$299 for it.

# Another curriculum-based problem

I’ve just started a new school period. Courses at our school are most often over 7 weeks and on the 8th week we have an exam, exams were last week. So right now I’m taking “Entrepreneurship and sustainable development” (environment stuff) and “The Finite Element Method” which is sort of in between math and computer science; something I really like.

I have the option of taking a third course as well, it’s completely voluntary and seems very fun. It’s called “Algorithm implementation”, and the course book is called “Writing Secure and Efficient C Code”. So it’s about writing super-optimized algorithms in C. The course is super-nerdy and I’ve had the lecturer on a course in C before and he’s totally kick-ass; like a nerd god!

I really want to take the Algorithm course, but the FEM-course seems quite large and complex and I really want to learn it thoroughly since I’m thinking of specializing in scientific calculation and simulation in my final two years.

So the questions is this. Skip the C course and focus on FEM and understand it really well or take both courses and maybe not understand the FEM as well and have a heavier workload? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

# Calculating when to stop renting

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Emanuel posted a comment on my previous post about when you should stop renting something and just buy it. He made a calculation based on some basic probability calculations and that’s pretty much what I had thought about before too.

I’m going to try to do the same in this post. First of all, I’m going to use the same example as in the previous post; renting rackets for playing badminton. I assume a racket costs 20 per time played to rent and 200 to buy.

For all economic purposes playing 10 times is the same as playing forever, because when you’ve played 10 times you’ve played enough times to pay for the entire racket. The whole purpose of this exercise is to figure out when to buy a racket before we’ve played so many times that we’ve doubled the price. So we want to set up a probability distribution for the probability of quitting.

If we just think about it I think we can come pretty close to something accurate. There’s a much, much higher probability of quitting right at the start of playing, and close to 10 times played there’s almost no probability of quitting. At 10 it should technically be zero because then we’ve come to the limit of where we’re calling it not quitting at all. A first approximation would be (as Emanuel did) a linear decrease in probability. But I think this is a bit too rough. I’m going to say that the probability follows a normal distribution $N(0,3)$, i.e. among all people; the expected times played before quitting is 0 plus/minus 3 times. Obviously you can’t play a negative amount of times so we’re just going to look at the positive x-axis. Since we’re only looking at half of the distribution and it needs to be normalized the function will be

$large{f_X(x)=frac{2}{sqrt{2cdotpicdot 3^2}}e^{-frac{x^2}{2cdot 3^2}}}$.

This has the cumulative distribution function

$F_X(x)=mbox{erf}frac{x}{3sqrt{2}}$

This shows the probability of having quit by a given amount of times played. In other words, at 10 times played, the probability of having quit is practically 100%. What we want to know now is however the probability of not quitting given a certain amount of times played. We get that by taking $1-F_X(x)$, so the probability of not quitting when we’ve played 10 times is 0.

Now we want to buy a racket when there is only a 10% chance that we’re going to quit immediately after buying it.

$1-F_X(x)=0.1Rightarrow F_X(x)=0.9 Rightarrow x approx 4.93$

Since we’re actually dealing with a discrete situation, we should play 5 times before buying a racket if we want to be guaranteed that there is only a 10% risk that we’re going to quit after buying it.

Emanuel noted that there are some other factors to take into considerations, but the only actually relevant is the psychological effect that if you buy a racket you are more likely to continue playing because you feel more invested into the activity. This is very possible for something so simple as buying a racket, but if you’re buying a boat or an airplane it’s not that simple.

In summary; if you’re playing badminton and you usually require about 3 tries before you know wether or not you’re going to like it, you should spend 50% of the cost of the racket renting before you buy it if you want less than a 10% risk of wasting the money for the racket. It’s worth commenting however that for each consecutive time you play, you decrease your risk of wasting money and if you actually were to quit, you would waste less and less money each time after purchase.

Some people might also prefer wasting 20% of the cost rather than paying 20% extra.