Monthly Archives: May 2009

Dice-O-Matic, The Ultimate Dice Rolling Machine

Generating random numbers in software has historically been a fine art. Many companies and individuals have tried to generate truly random numbers in software and failed, some of which have failed in such a grandiose fashion it has costed business millions of dollars.

Games By Email required a dice rolling system for numerous online games. After trying various software implementations, some of his users analysed the dice rolling system and were convinced it wasn’t random enough. To put his clients mind as ease, he decided that the only real way to fix the problem was to roll real dice – not generate the dice rolls in software.

Meet the Dice-O-Matic Mark II, a 7 foot tall, 104 pound dice eating month which generates 1.3 million rolls per day! The Dice-O-Matic uses a combination of standard hardware such a bike chain, sprockets and electrical equipment which is coupled with some custom Microsoft .NET software to read photo taken of the dice after the roll to analyse what the values where – completely kick arse.

If you’re having problems viewing the above video, watch the Dice-O-Matic Mark II on YouTube directly.

Offline “Home Business Opportunity” Spam

For the last six months, as I travel around the Gold Coast I keep seeing various bits of advertising at intersections and traffic lights. The advertising is normally stuck or pinned against the light post in the middle of the road, such that the driver can easily see it when stopped at the lights.

When I first came across the advertising, I thought it was very creative. Instead of bothering with professionally printed signs, they were hand written using a wide tipped Nikko – black writing on a plain white plastic cardboard. The sign said something to the effect of ‘executive income from home, phone x or visit y’.

It wasn’t long before I started seeing more and more of these little advertising boards, stuck up at intersections all over the Gold Coast – so one day I thought I might as well check out what they are going on about. Shortly after visiting the site in question, I realise they aren’t selling anything specifically – but are offering business coaching. Sounds like a good idea to me, a little further reading and the business coaching they are offering is based on the magic of the stupidly cult popular “The Secret”. At that point, I began to become disinterested in anything they had to offer; sorry to say it but willing your home business to grow and earn you six and seven figure sums of money isn’t going to happen – no matter how far you put the good vibes out into the world.

Recently, more and more of these types of banners have shown up over the Gold Coast – except now they are varying in style – some printed professionally, some hand written and so on. The web site addresses being promoted are different, however there is a common theme – all pushing the home business opportunity and executive six figure plus income from home.

Further investigation shows that the web sites are strangely similar – the same cookie cutter style sites, but with different people telling you how their home business opportunity will change your world forever. Lots of personal photographs of the person in question around the world, all inferring that it was a derivative of the power of awesome service. That lead me to find out where the cookie cutter sites are coming from, the same business in each case. Throwing their web site address into Google returned huge volumes of results and looking through the URL’s of the sites, you could easily spot a common theme.

Looking into their business further and it would appear there are a lot of unhappy people getting around the internet about them. They are embroiled in a huge scam, how it works I’m not quite sure but I’m guessing it involves duping a client into believing that willing their business to grow through positive thinking and good vibrations will work, all of which can be your for a tidy sum of money.

I’m wondering how many people on the Gold Coast have seen their guerrilla advertising and followed through?

Who Said Kevin Rudd Doesn’t Have A Sense Of Humour

For those not aware, the Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd is an active Twitter user. That might come as a surprise to most, however with the better part of 44,000 people following his updates – he is gaining popularity all the time.

Today Kevin was at the Southern Cross Station in Melbourne investigating first hand what impact Federal funding has had on the facility and was, not surprisingly impressed with the improvements. While there, he tried to conduct an interview – which wasn’t as successful as it could have been due to location and timing:

Ever tried to do a press conference at Southern Cross station and compete with a locomotive for the microphone? Don’t try. Locos 1. Me 0.

I find little quips of information like that quite refreshing from our Prime Minister. For a long time, I’ve always considered our Prime Minsters to be all business and no play kind of men. Having Kevin Rudd write things like that really does remind me that he is just an ordinary bloke doing a job.

Windows Live WordPress Web Activity

While playing around with the new functionality in Windows Live last night, I noticed that they had a WordPress Web Activity.

Adding the WordPress Web Activity to my profile, it asked for my URL and provided suggested formatting of that URL on the textbox. While I do have a account, I don’t use it for blogging for obvious reasons – so adding that URL would have been rather boring for anyone viewing my Windows Live profile.

I assumed that Microsoft hadn’t necessarily collaborated with to allow that integration, after all, the information they are attempting to display within Windows Live is publically available through an RSS feed for a given site.

Making some assumptions about how Microsoft were going to perform their magic, I added in this blogs URL – even though the form suggested After hitting submit, their service hit my site and found an alternative formatting for the content within the HTML (RSS), which gave them everything they needed for the integration.

Within a minute of me adding the WordPress Web Activity, the six most recent posts from this blog were visible within my Profile. Within my activity stream (all of my activity, not just, they were displaying the title, date posted and a short snippet as well with the title linked back to my blog to read the full article.

What I really liked about this piece of functionality was that the Windows Live team didn’t hobble their implementation with over zealous validation. They could have taken the hardline and not accepted anything not in the format of for a URL – however it would have severely limited its usefulness. Simply because of their forward thinking, millions of users who have their own WordPress blog that aren’t hosted on can now automatically have their posts published into their Windows Live profile.

Windows Live Is Getting Smarter

A couple of years ago Microsoft embarked on a new product and brand named Live. From memory, the Live product was initially a fight back from Microsoft in response to the might of Google after they recognised that MSN Search wasn’t a strong enough product and brand to combat Google Web Search.

In more recent times, Microsoft have been quietly working away and releasing a number of high quality services, such as:

  • Live Messenger (replacement for MSN Messenger)
  • Live Mail (desktop replacement for Outlook Express & web mail)
  • Live Writer (desktop blog publishing utility)
  • Live Photo Gallery

Probably the most visible amongst those is Live Mail, specifically the web mail – which historically went under the banner of Hotmail. The progressive rolling out of Live Mail has been a refreshing breath of air as the existing Hotmail service was falling by the weigh side in speed and functionality compared to other newer services such as GMail from Google.

The next evolution has been plodding along from Microsoft, which is the notion of a user profile – not unlike what you have on most other web sites. You’ve long been able to login any Microsoft service with your Hotmail and subsequently Live account; Microsoft are now finally capitalising on that single sign on to embrace the social web landscape that has seen incredible growth over the last 3 years.

With recent upgrades to, when signing into your account you can get a snapshot of your online assets – such as the last x emails you’ve received in your Hotmail account and a history of your activity with various Live products like changing the status message in Live Messenger.

Today there is an amazing set of new functionality within the profiles, which allows users to consume other social network content within their profile. Microsoft are calling these things ‘web activities’ and are marketing it as a method which will allow your friends to keep on top of all things you, without having to visit potentially dozens of different web sites. The new web activities go by the name of widgets in other sites, small blocks of pluggable content from a different source which is displayed on your site. As a simple example, they have web activities to plugin your Facebook stream and literally dozens of others to your profile.

While Microsoft have come into the user profile space behind Google, who first released them in December 2007 – the evolution of the Live user profile functionality seems to be happening at a much faster pace. Google Profiles allows a user to tell others about themselves, associate their profile with other social network profiles via a simple URL and in some instances, consume content via widgets but not to the extent that the Microsoft Live profiles do.

A feature that is surely high on the Live list of functionality will be vanity URL’s for users. The current user profile URL’s are horrible and completely useless for a consumer, mine being Only in the last month have Google provided vanity URL’s as an option for their profiles, which are either numeric by default or based on your Google Account username. To explore how that might get used, I’ve enabled the vanity URL’s for my Google Profile at

I’ve been a late adopter to all things Live, so I’m really excited by the functionality and features that are flowing into the Live products. I keen to see where Microsoft are going to take this going forward – maybe there are plans for tighter integration with Facebook or their own social network down the road?