Google Caffeine Update

Google is rolling out a new update that involves injecting some caffeine into its system. The “Caffeine Update” is rumored to contain a few interesting items.

Speed is now a factor in your rankings. Google will measure how long it takes for your website to load and compare it against the average loading time of other websites. If your site loads faster than the average, you get a tiny boost in your rankings, if it loads slower, then you get a tiny penalty. So this if course raises the immediate question – how do I know if my site is loading at the right speed?

Fortunately, Google Webmaster Tools can answer that question. If you login to Google Webmaster tools, under the “Labs” section they’ve added a new “Site Performance” tool that tells you how fast your website loads compared to everybody else:

Website Speed by Google

As you can see – the site in the above image loads faster than 83% of other websites. I think that’s safe to say this particular website will get a nice boost once Caffeine hits the live results pages. The other nice feature of this new tool is that it identifies ways to speed up your page, a really common suggestion it made to my own websites was to enable GZIP compression, which I am in the process of doing right now.

Another factor that is being speculated about is whether social bookmarking will be used in the ranking of your website. It’s possible that Google will rank your website higher for ranking on sites like Digg.com. Now this does raise the question of social bookmark spamming, and in fact there are services out there that will guarantee your story to appear on the front page of Digg.com for a price (expect these types of services to gain massive popularity when this update goes live).

While we are on the topic of ways to enhance your website, here’s a few optimization tips you can use to give you a small edge in organic rankings with Google:

  • Check for any crawl errors in Google Webmaster Tools. If Googlebot is having issues with your site, it will tell you so you can fix them and stop being penalized.
  • Check for any HTML suggestions from Google Webmaster tools. This is another great feature that gives you some basic tips for optimizing your website in various ways. It will alert you if there are any meta tag problems, duplicate content issues, and such. It can be a real life saver if checked frequently.
  • Another great tool is Web Page Analyzer (by WebsiteOptimization.com). It will crawl a single page on your website and run various tests to measure how fast it responds and how long it will take an average user on various connection speeds to load your page. It also identifies other great features such as really large images or external files that are slowing your site down, and makes recommendations on what to fix so you can enhance your site to it’s fullest.

If you would like more information on the Google Caffeine update, here’s a few useful places to check:

Initial Announcement of Caffeine by Google
Google Caffeine Hits After the Holidays
Interview with Matt Cutts re: Caffeine Update

You Don’t Need Much to Power a Media Center PC

Have you every considered setting up a dedicated computer to act as a media center in your living room? Well, if you have some older hardware around, you can do this right now.

Surprisingly, you don’t need a lot of powerful hardware to have a good, functioning media center. Case in point: I recently set up my old Dell Dimension as a media PC for my 1080p TV. This computer is around 4-5 years old, and guess what, it works perfectly as a media center. It is a Pentium 4 at 3GHz, 512MB RAM, and a Radeon X300SE graphics card with 128MB of onboard memory. Sure this sounds very weak compared to modern hardware: 4-8 GB of memory is now the norm, as well as quad core processors. But for playing 720p video, my setup works flawlessly.

Yea, believe it or not, that little X300 and Pentium 4 can play 720p video without any lag whatsoever. It can’t handle 1080p, but I’m 100% satisfied with 720p on my 52″ screen. And how much did I spend to make it all work? $7 at Radio Shack for a headphone-to-headphone cable. I plugged the TV in as if it were a monitor, using the standard blue VGA cable. Then plugged in the audio cable just as if the TV was a speaker system, and there you have it: a budget home theater system, while saving a computer from being thrown out or put in storage.

So if you have an old computer, but not too old, laying around, give it a shot and see if it will play high-def videos. You might be surprised. And if it can’t, you can always buy a $50 video card from eBay or Newegg. If my X300 / Pentium 4 computer can run a 1080p resolution and play 720p video, you can see right there that you don’t need to spend hundreds on a home media center.

How to Make a Disk Brake Rotor Wall Clock

Here is a simple tutorial on how to create a functional clock using a disk brake rotor. The rotor was taken off a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee (ZJ). When completed, this project can compliment your man cave very nicely.

Supplies needed:

-Disk brake rotor

-Functioning clock

-Silicone glue (or another flexible adhesive)

-Rubbing alcohol or another quick drying cleaning product

Tools needed:

-Cutting tool (like a Dremel or Jigsaw)

-Drill

Step 1:

clock step 1

Set down your disk brake rotor.

Step 2:

clock step 2

Drill a hole in the back of the rotor which will enable you to hang it up.

Step 3:

Cut out the center of the clock (a Dremel with a cutting disk works best for this).

Step 4:

clock step 4

Clean the inside of the center of the rotor. Glue the clock into the center of the disk brake rotor using silicone or some other kind of flexible adhesive. Be sure the clock is centered, and let the glue dry with the clock placed with its face down (as in the picture).

Step 5:

clock step 5

Set the time and hang up the clock!

EA Wants to Sell DLC to Pirates

Electronic Arts has been known to try everything possible for the sake of combating pirates. They have included all kinds of much-hated DRM in their games. But now the CEO of EA has said that pirates are a new market that EA needs to make money from.

While this is great news for the anti-DRM activists, it might not be good news for gamers who actually buy their games. John Riccitiello, the CEO of Electronic Arts, wants to sell DLC – download content – to everyone who has the game, not just those who bought it. But this might turn into a very bad thing: DLC will contain most of the game, while the game itself will be more like a platform to add features onto. This would degrade the quality of games severely. And a lot of today’s games are already terrible enough.

It’s good that EA has recognized pirates as something they cannot defeat. It is impossible, just as it is impossible to stop all robbery and theft in the real world. Why waste money and resources fighting a war you cannot win? However, DLC is not the answer, at least for PC games. DLC can be illegally downloaded just like the game itself. And the biggest issue here is developers degrading the initial game on purpose so they can sell lots of DLC later on.

Download content for games is growing already, and I think developers are starting to see the profit in it. Personally I don’t like the whole DLC model because paying $50 for a game is too much in the first place. A lot more games would sell if they cost less, and in the end, the money made from the game would be the same, if not more. But pushing DLC on pirates will most likely produce no real results. Only inexperienced pirates might buy the DLC – people who know what they’re doing will just pirate the DLC.

Whether piracy affects the sale of media is still being debated, but one thing that’s been proven is that DRM only hurts legitimate gamers. DRM can only delay a game from being cracked, and that delay is typically only an hour or so. All games can be and will be cracked, shared, pirated. How game developers, movie producers, the music industry, and software companies will react to piracy depends on their success. I think it’s time for them to drop DRM, and find a way to profit off the games even if they’re pirated. DLC might not be the answer, but how about something like in-game advertising (only if done realistically and tastefully, like in Battlefield 2 or TrackMania Nations)?

Source: Kotaku, image via flickr

ISP’s Are Banning People from Playing Modern Warfare 2

It looks like internet service providers don’t like it when people play Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 on their connections. Gamers are reporting that some are receiving notices from the internet providers informing them that they are not allowed to use P2P so frequently, or that they are not allowed to host servers on their home connections.

And why is this happening? Because the smart people at Infinity Ward gave PC gamers a big middle finger, and removed dedicated servers from the game. But how can you play online then you might ask? Why, IW.net will just use your computer as a server. And that’s not allowed on any consumer ISP.

So what can you do now? Nothing really. Infinity Ward can try to pay every ISP there is to not recognize Modern Warfare 2 traffic as running a server or downloading through P2P. But there’s nothing you can really do, because the game is in fact using your computer as a server, and it is in fact using P2P protocols to let you play online.

Putting aside the issues of security – you are opening ports on your firewall and router to play the game after all – this issue with ISP’s could have been predicted. Everyone knows you can’t run a server from home if you’re using a normal internet service provider. So you can’t really do anything but stop playing CoD MW2 online. Sad, huh?

I will never buy Modern Warfare 2 because of the way Infinity Ward has treated PC gamers. The answers they gave in interviews regarding lack of dedicated servers made it seem like they were doing this just to dumb down the PC version, so it could be as simple as the console version. This is exactly the opposite of what everyone wanted. And the reviews show (take a look at the user score).

Sources: Infinity Ward forums (although most posts are probably now deleted), GossipGamers, ModernWarFail2

2009 San Francisco International Auto Show Wrap-Up

The following is a complete list of WordPlop’s coverage of the 2009 San Francisco International Auto Show. We could not get photos and information about every single car that was at the show, but we tried to include as much of the interesting stuff as possible. And since most people don’t buy interesting cars unfortunately, we also covered as much of the boring cars as we could.

It took a lot of work, and this has been the biggest “project” on WordPlop so far. We took 684 photos, which amounted to 2.28GB. We narrowed this down to 336 photos, and compressed the size down to 125MB. We then watermarked the photos and renamed each one so you would be able to easily search for a particular car. Finally, we divided the photos into posts, and typed up all the information about the cars we had. This whole project took many hours of hard work to put together. So please, do not use our photos without linking back to the post from which the photo came from. Feel free to share, but give credit and a link.

Special thanks goes to Thomas Munka, who wrote about the SVT Raptor, ML 350, Corvette, and Toyota. He also provided transportation to and from the auto show, and helped with taking photos. Thanks!

All the posts below can be found through the San Francisco International Auto Show 2009 tag. The list below is a compilation of links to the articles and photo galleries, in alphabetical order. If you’re looking for something particular, you can use the site’s search function in the sidebar.

San Francisco International Auto Show 2009

1927-1937 Classic Car Gallery
1932-1970 Hot Rods Gallery: Bel Air, Corvette, Mustang, and more
Aston Martin Gallery
Audi R8 Gallery and Information
Bentley Photo Gallery
BMW 335d, M3, and Z4 Roadster Info and Gallery
Cadillac Converj Photos
Chevy Camaro Photo Gallery
Chevy Corvette Convertible, Grand Sport, ZR1: Photos, Information, & Review
Chevy Volt Photos
Dodge Challenger Photos
Ferrari Photo Gallery, Including Upgraded F430
Ford Gallery: SVT Raptor, Fusion, Mustang, Shelby GT500
Honda Galleries: Civic Si, Fit, Insight, S2000
Hyundai Genesis Coupe Info and Photos
Jeep Commander and Wrangler Unlimited Photos
Lamborghini Photo Gallery
Land Rover Range Rover HSE Info & Gallery
Lexus GS 350 & IS 350 Sharpie Edition Gallery & Info
Lincoln MKS, MKT, MKX, MKZ, Navigator Gallery & Info
Lotus Evora Photos
Mazda Photo Gallery and Information
Mercedes ML350 and SL550 Photo Galleries
Mini Cooper Photo Gallery & Info
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Rally Photos
Nissan Leaf, GTR, & Skyline Photos
Porsche Photo Gallery
SFPD Police Interceptor, Rolls Royce Phantom, Modified Scions, Pink Smart Car
Subaru Impreza WRX & STI Photo Gallery
SV 9 Competizione Photo Gallery
Toyota 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Prius, Tacoma, Yaris: Photo Galleries and Info
Volkswagen GTI, Jetta, & Touareg Information and Photos

Chevy Corvette Convertible, Grand Sport, ZR1: Photos, Information, & Review

General Motors – known in the past for solid steel and big block cars; currently known for putting out plastic crap. Not even the 2010 Chevrolet Corvette differentiates itself from this plastic extravaganza. Open a door and feel the plastic door panels creak. Take a seat inside, feel the not-so-solid backings of the seats on a $60,000 car wiggle back and forth. Let’s turn on the radio, hopefully the knob won’t fall off. And if you feel like opening the trunk, be sure not to press too hard, you might crack the plastic body panels.

We got a chance to see and feel the 2010 Corvette at the 2009 San Francisco Auto Show. The first thing we noticed was a peeling racing stripe decal (see picture below) on a car valued at $60K; you might expect racing stripes to actually be painted on a car of this caliber. After adoring the cool looking body, we took a seat inside only to find that the seats wiggle back and forth about ten inches; no big deal, I suppose they’re not clicked in. So we get out of the car, play with the seat controls, and they still wiggle like crazy. I asked a company representative about this issue: he checked the seats on the Corvette and told me they shouldn’t be doing that. He proceeded to another corvette, only to find the seats doing the same thing. And later, when we were looking at the SV 9 Competizione (which is built on the Corvette platform), we noticed the exact same problem. Enough about the seats – the whole interior creaks and the quality of it feels like it belongs in a ten year old, worn and used sedan. Well, to fish out some positives, it puts out amazing horsepower (436 HP for the Grand Sport and 638 HP for the ZR1) and excellent gas mileage (16 MPG city / 26 MPG highway for the Grand Sport and 14 MPG city / 20 MPG highway for the ZR1) for a price you can’t beat ($54,770 for the Grand Sport and $106,880 for the ZR1) – just don’t expect the 2010 Corvette to feel as sturdy and solid as, say, a Porsche or Ferrari.

EDIT: Well this is interesting: looks like GM just raised the MSRP on the 2010 Corvette ZR1 from $106,880 to $108,180 according to their website.

Photos taken December 2009 at the San Francisco International Auto Show.

Chevy Corvette Convertible

chevy-corvette-convertible

Chevy Corvette Grand Sport Coupe

  • MSRP of $54,770 (the one pictured is $60,550)
  • LS3 6.2 Liter engine making 436 HP
  • Dry Sump Oil System
  • 6-Speed manual transmission
  • Active Handling
  • Traction Control System
  • 4 Wheel independent suspension
  • Power speed-sensitive variable ratio rack-and-pinion steering
  • Limited Slip Differential

chevy-corvette-grand-sport-1

chevy-corvette-grand-sport-2

chevy-corvette-grand-sport-3

chevy-corvette-grand-sport-4

chevy-corvette-grand-sport-5

chevy-corvette-grand-sport-6

chevy-corvette-grand-sport-interior-1

chevy-corvette-grand-sport-interior-2

chevy-corvette-grand-sport-ls3-engine-bay

Chevy Corvette ZR1

  • MSRP of $106,880 (the one pictured is $121,000)
  • LS9 6.2 Liter Supercharged V8 making 638 HP
  • Dry Sump Oil System
  • 6-Speed manual transmission
  • Active Handling
  • Traction Control System
  • 4 wheel independent suspension
  • Power Speed-Sensitive Variable Ratio Rack-and-Pinion Steering
  • Limited Slip Differential

chevy-corvette-zr1-1

chevy-corvette-zr1-2

chevy-corvette-zr1-3

chevy-corvette-zr1-4

chevy-corvette-zr1-carbon-roof

chevy-corvette-zr1-wheels