Tech Tip: Start a simple web server

Python ships with a handy little web server that will serve up the files in the folder from which it is run. This is really handy for development.

Run the following command to start the server:

python -m SimpleHTTPServer

Or if you are using Python 3, run:

python -m http.server

Y is for YouTube facts and figures

YouTube has changed the way we watch and shared videos so I thought that I would collate some fun facts about YouTube for this post.

First off YouTube was created by 3 PayPal employees: Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. The site was officially launched in 2005 and this was the first video ever uploaded to it (a video of Jawed at the zoo):

A year later YouTube was purchased by Google for $1.65 billion in stock!

Today more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month. Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube and 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

YouTube is heavily entrenched in any Internet connect person’s life as evidenced by it’s usage on smartphones: 40% of YouTube’s watch time is done on mobile devices and it accounts for 4% of total time spent on iOS and Android devices.

Whilst usage is high amongst the younger generations, 83% of Generation Z visit the site at least once a month, it is used by all: Millennials 70%, Generation X 58%, Younger Baby Boomers 49%, Older Baby Boomers: 40%, Golden Generation: 30%.

Of course this all costs a lot of money to run. In 2007 Google introduced ads to YouTube with a revenue sharing model with owners of video content: 45% to Google, 55% to the uploader. Google doesn’t release any figures but their ad revenue was guesstimated to hit $5.6 billion for 2013. Which means that just over $3 billion went to uploaders, today there are many people who make a living off of the content they upload.

Another mind blowing thing is the number of servers that Google uses to deliver its services such as YouTube. It is estimated that they run over 2.3 million servers!

Here is a video about one of their data centers:

That’s a lot of $$$ for videos of cats ;)


Z is for Zentraedi

In the mid 80’s my tweenish self was introduced to something that blew my mind and that was Robotech. I (and most of the western world) had not encountered Japanese animation or Anime before. With it’s complex story arc, the alien Zentraedi intent on wiping out humanity, cool transforming robots and awesome mass battles, I was hooked.

When the story started to span generations of characters and the even bigger threat of the Invid was revealed, young me was stunned. This was perhaps the first time I had encountered space opera and never ever had I seen a “cartoon” which such a vast scope.

Here is the first episode of the 85 that made up the series:

Of course in later life I discovered that Robotech was actually a mashup of 3 different Japanese TV shows, artfully edited together and dubbed to make a cohesive story. Anime purists view Robotech as an abomination but personally I think it is one of my favorite Anime series.

One word of warning… it has singing, yep singing. For some strange reason the series always seemed to have a singer as one of the characters and in true 80’s Anime style the songs and accompanying animation  are endlessly recycled. Luckily older me has access to digital versions of the shows so I can just fast forward through these bits, a luxury that tween me did not :)

U is for Unity

If you want to make games, Unity is a tool you should look at. It allows you to easily create games (both 3D and 2D) for a variety of platforms including Windows, Linux, Mac , Web , iOS, Android and Windows Phone. It also has a free version and if you ever need the pro version it is reasonable cheap to buy or subscribe to.

Check out some of the features in the upcoming version:

YouTube Preview Image

Here are some links to get you going:

Go Nuts and build the next Flappy bird!

V is for Velocity

Physics based games, especially on mobile devices have become de rigueur. It’s pretty amazing what can be done with some simply math.

I recently came across this game mechanics site which provides short examples of different game mechanics, algorithms and effects. Many of these are of course physics based and involve velocity.

Some of my favorites:

Yay for maths and physics!

X is for lots of things

It turns out X is for quite a lot of things:

  • In mathematics, ‘x’ is commonly used as the name for an independent variable or unknown value.
  • ‘x’ is used to signify the multiplication operation when a more appropriate glyph is unavailable.
  • As a result of its use in algebra, X is often used to represent unknowns in other circumstances (e.g. Malcolm X).
  • In the Cartesian coordinate system x is used to refer to the horizontal axis.
  • X-rays are so called because their discoverer did not know what they were.
  • X has been used as a namesake for a generation of humans: Generation X, commonly abbreviated to Gen X. It is the generation born after the baby boom ended, ranging from 1961 to 1981.
  • An X-shaped mark has traditionally been used by the illiterate in lieu of a signature, and is also used to indicate a signature line on forms.
  • X marks are used to indicate the concept of negation or incorrect, the opposite of a Tick (check mark). They are also used as a substitute for the check mark (most notably on election Ballot papers)
  • X is commonly used as a generic mark (selecting an item on a form, indicating a location on a map, etc.).
  • The common custom of placing Xs on envelopes, notes and at the bottom of letters to mean kisses dates back to the Middle Ages, when a Christian cross was drawn on documents or letters to mean sincerity, faith, and honesty.
  • Usually in art or fashion, the use of X indicates a collaboration with two or more artists.
  • In cartoons, a dead character’s eyes are often drawn as Xs.
  • In mapping by the standards of the USGS, an x-type mark is used to denote the point referred to by an elevation marking on topographical maps.
  • Maps leading to hidden treasure often denote the treasure with an X. The expression “X marks the spot” is related to these treasure maps

That’s quite a lot of meanings attached to two little crossed lines! And thanks Wikipedia editors for your X article :)

T is for Taxes (and delayed blog posts)

Been working on my taxes so have been a bit slack in posting…

However I thought that I would share this graph which shows where all your tax money was planned to go for 20132014 (if you are New Zealander that is):


Pretty much what you’d expect, Social Welfare: 27%, Health: 17.7%, Education: 15.3% which is the price you “pay” for free education, healthcare and a good social welfare program. Then the shocker 13.9% ( $11,502.8 million) paying back debt! Thanks economic crisis :(  More details here

S is for Strange conversations

I use public transport religiously. It means we are a one car family which saves a bucket of money and helps out the environment to boot. Even better I get to walk about 40 minutes a day which helps with the waistline!

But there is an added “bonus” and that is: strange conversations with strangers.

Over the years I have had some seriously good ones, point in case, two days ago I was walking alongside an elderly polynesian man…

“Nice day” he said.

“Yep”, I said fumbling with my earbuds so I could hear what he had to say.

“You going home? Had a long day?” he asked

“Yep, on the I’m on my way home” I said.

“Good, good” he mused. “Maybe have a whisky to relax?” he puzzled.

“Maybe a bourbon” I volunteered…

“Get a massage?” he said with a grin.

What? I thought to myself…

“You should get yourself a Chinese Lady” he announced.  ”Not a fat one; a nice skinny one”  he continued.

“Ahhhhh????” I muttered trying to wrap my head around where this conversation was going.

We walked on for a few moments and then he asked “You married?”

“Yes” I said non-committedly, my brain still wrestling with his comment about Chinese Ladies.

“Mmmm….” he mused, “Sorry”.  Then our paths diverged him going left and me going right.

Perhaps my favourite stranger conversion was with an elderly lady on a bus a few years ago. As I sat down across from her, she leaned forward and said “You remind me of an Italian Duke I once knew”. Oh boy, I thought, here we go again.

It turns out that she was a bit wayward as a young girl and left the farm to see the world (much to her parents horror). Somehow she landed up as the Au Pair for a widowed Italian Duke and then worked her wiles to become his consort. Apparently their relationship caused much scandal and anguish amongst the local nobility, especially the Duchesses. She even pulled out a faded photo of herself when she was young, I must say she was quite the looker and I suspect with her looks and strong personality the poor Duke never stood a chance. Unfortunately the bus arrived at her stop before I could find out more.

So the next time you decide to drive somewhere, perhaps take the bus or train instead. You never know what interesting conversations you might have :)

Q is for ???

Well, I was going to blog about Quaternions and how Unity really makes it easy to do 3D stuff without you having to have a deep understanding of math but I ran out of time!

So instead here are a list of things starting with Q that I had no idea existed…


Quassin is a white bitter, crystalline substance extracted from the quassia tree. It is one of the most bitter substances found in nature with a bitter threshold of 0.08 ppm and it is 50 times more bitter than quinine.


A monetary unit of Albania, equal to one hundredth of a lek.


Has several meanings including: a sequence of five cards of the same suit. A run of ace, king, queen, jack, and ten is a quint major and one of jack, ten, nine, eight, and seven a quint minor.


The 19th letter of the Hebrew alphabet.


The quokka, the only member of the genus Setonix, is a small macropod about the size of a domestic cat. Like other marsupials in the macropod family, the quokka is herbivorous and mainly nocturnal.


An evasion of the point of an argument by raising irrelevant distinctions or objections or The essence that makes something the kind of thing it is and makes it different from any other


A person who meddles in the affairs of others.