The street finds its own uses for things

What the Internet is For

Before I begin, here’s a quick reminder of what the Internet is for…

and it seems to be true all over the world. Don’t take my word for it; here’s the Israeli production of Avenue Q saying the same thing, but in Hebrew:

Now that you’ve been told what the internet is for — by both an actual internet professional (that would be me) and a big Broadway stage production, no less – we can continue.

Silverlight and Playboy

If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend browsing through Playboy. Not the issues from this era or maybe even the past 20 or so years, but the Playboy of earlier times; the Playboy that dispensed the best advice on which hi-fi system to buy, provided good cocktail recipes, had great articles and interviews and featured the works of all sorts of writers, including John Updike, Stanley Elkin, Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Bellow, Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood.

You can do just that right now, thanks to the Playboy Archive, where 53 issues from Playboys past, spanning the time period from 1954 to 2005 are available for your reading pleasure, online and free of charge. The issues were scanned in at high resolution and placed into a Silverlight-powered browsing interface, as shown below:

Playboy archive home page

The Best Damn Use for Deep Zoom, Ever!

The Playboy Archive takes advantage of Silverlight’s Deep Zoom feature, which combines using images at different levels of magnification and smooth animation to allow for a “zoom in/zoom out” effects. Most demos of this feature cover something boring like maps or paintings by the Old Masters; I think Playboy’s application of Deep Zoom to look at ladies without pants is far more entertaining.

Let’s take a relatively-safe-for-work look, shall we? I’m going to show you the September 1962 issue, whose centerfold is so tame by today’s standards that the skin lotion ads on the Toronto subway are far racier in comparison.

Here’s a reduced version of the first zoom level of the issue, showing you about a dozen pages at a time:

Septmeber 1962 Playboy, "pages" view

If I were to click on a specific pair of pages, let’s say the centerfold, I’d get the level 2 zoom, a reduced version of which is shown below:

Septmeber 1962 Playboy centerfold, zoom level 2

Oh, the hayloft! How I love the hayloft! But I digress.

A subsequent click yields zoom level 3:

Septmeber 1962 Playboy centerfold, zoom level 3

And finally, because her brown eyes are very compelling, I think I’ll click once more to get zoom level 4.

Septmeber 1962 Playboy centerfold, zoom level 4

Remember, these screen captures were reduced to fit this blog’s format. The actual screen images are larger!

But What if You Read Playboy for the Articles?

“I read it for the articles!” used to be the classic justification for reading Playboy. It also was true, at least in part – Playboy often got interviews with people that more “mainstream” and “respectable” publications would never have a hope of or even think of getting. The Playboy Archive features an interview with Jawaharlal Nehru (India’s first Prime Minister, and you know, the jacket guy!) from the October 1963 issue:

Full-page view of Nehru interview in October 1963 Playboy

and as with the centerfolds or any other parts of the magazines featured in the Playboy Archive, the Nehru interview can be viewed in Deep Zoom:

Closeup of Nehru interview text from October 1963 Playboy

Think of it as a bonus treat if you can’t find your glasses or if you wanted to examine early 1960s typographic and kerning techniques.

What are just as fascinating as the articles – if not more fascinating sometimes – are the ads, especially the Mad Men-esque ones from the late 50s and early 60s, Like the creations of Sterling Cooper, they were quite reliant on the text to evoke images in the reader’s mind. Consider this ad for London Fog overcoats:

October 1963 Playboy "London Fog" ad, zoomed out

…and here’s a close-up look at the text, courtesy of Deep Zoom:

Close0up of the text from the "London Fog" ad in the October 1963 Playboy

It’s as if Don Draper himself wrote that copy!

But enough of this eruditon. Let’s get back to the porn, shall we?

Internet Explorer 8 and its Excellent “Porn Mode”

You may have heard that Internet Explorer 8, the latest version of Microsoft’s browser, was released this week. If you’re using Internet Explorer 7 or worse, Internet Explorer 6, ditch them now. Internet Explorer 8 is a much better, more compatible browser that shows signs of Microsoft’s increasing willingness to play well with others.

Internet Explorer 8 (which I’ll refer to as IE8) features what we in the industry like to refer to as “porn mode”. Porn mode, simply put, is a slightly different mode of operation in which the browser doesn’t keep any record of your browsing history. As long as you use it when browsing sites like YouPorn, your browser won’t keep showing “YouPorn” as a possible choice when someone else hops on your computer and tries to access YouTube.

Activating Porn Mode in IE8 is easy. From the Safety menu (located near the upper right-hand corner of the window), select InPrivate Browsing (that’s the socially acceptable name for Porn Mode), as shown below:


You’ll get a new browsing window with all sorts of anonymizing features, including not saving the names and locations of sites you visit in your browser’s history!

While IE8 isn’t the first browser to feature Porn Mode, it very clearly tells you when you’re in Porn Mode and when you’re not. Here’s what the address bar looks like in regular mode:

Internet Explorer 8 address bar in normal operation

And when in Porn Mode, it’s quite clear via both the title and the big blue “InPrivate” indicator in the address bar:

Internet Explorer 8 address bar showing InPrivate browsing mode active

Having these explicit cues telling you when the browser is and isn’t in Porn Mode is going to be a lifesaver, believe you me.

Combine Them!

If you combine the Playboy Archive’s excellent application of Silverlight with the cover-your-tracks feature of IE8’s Porn Mode…well, I think that’s an exercise that I’m going to leave to you, Gentle Reader. I hope you have fun out there on the ‘net, and never let it be said that The Empire didn’t do nuthin’ for ya!

How Do I Get This Wonderful Stuff?

You didn’t think I’d leave you high and dry and not tell you how to get Silverlight and Internet Explorer 8, did you?


Using the Hell Out of Your Digital Camera

by Joey deVilla on November 24, 2008

I got this Nikon Coolpix P6000 assigned to me.
I’ll do a writeup on it in a future article. has a great article featuring “10 camera tips not really related to photography” which covers some interesting uses for a digital camera that may not have occurred to you.

The photo above shows tip #1: take a photo of your contact info so that your camera can be returned to you if it’s lost. Many cameras have a feature that lets you lock a photo so it’s can’t be deleted; make your “This camera belongs to” photo the first shot on your card and lock it.

(Yeah, that’s my real mobile phone number and work email address. In the world of anti-spam, email rules and caller ID, I’m not too worried about handing out that info.)

You should check out the article for the full details, but for those of you who want a quick summary of the other interesting uses for a digital camera, they are:

  • A portable map device if you don’t have a GPS, iPhone or similar gadget
  • Remembering where you parked (especially if you’re not going to return to your car for some time, such as with airport long-term parking)
  • Remembering how something was assembled before you dismantle it for repair
  • Taking note of the licence plate of the guy who parked uncomfortably close to your car
  • A quick photocopier to take a copy of a couple of pages from a book or magazine with info that you might need while out
  • To cover your ass
  • To remember what’s on the menu at Chinese take-out
  • A quick way of jotting down the ingredients in a recipe so you know what to buy at the grocery
  • A better way of doing the “dent check” when you first take possession of a rental car
  • A mirror

If you can think up any other interesting uses for a digital camera – perhaps some that make use of the video recording feature – post them in the comments!

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