Spam needed. Yes, really.

(first, yes, long time no post, yada yada, I really hope to change that in the near future, but no promises, as always.)

Lovely spam, wonderful spam
Lovely spam, wonderful spam

Remember how, many many ears ago, it was recommended that you should never post your email address on a web page, as spammers crawled them and added that address to their lists? Well, I need to receive some spam on my email server (among other things, to train my filters), so here’s one address for you, dear spammers: 1. Want it as a mailto: link? Here it goes: Abelha .

New project in development

You may have noticed that there haven’t been any news posts here for more than a week. No, I’m not “bored” with my favorite subjects (as if I could); the reason for that is that I’ve been relatively busy with a new project of mine, which I’ve been doing in my free time. It’s still too soon for it to be revealed, but I can say the following: it uses PHP and MySQL (doesn’t everything, these days?), and has to do with email. It’ll provide a service that isn’t exactly novel (though a lot of non-tech users don’t even know such a thing exists), but I don’t think I’m doing it exactly like the “competition” does, which means it’ll be unique in some ways. I hope.

I hope to have something to show to the world in a week or two. But I’ll try to write a few new posts here, until then. I have a draft of the second entry in the Conversion Wars series almost finished (and it has been that way for a while, now), so that’ll probably be the next one.

Conversion Wars #1: Post Mortem

As I had mentioned before, the first entry on the Conversion Wars series (Out Run) revealed its format to be far too cumbersome; three long posts for a single game is simply too much.

So, the second entry in the series will be a single post (I haven’t decided on a game yet). After a short intro, there will just be a table with the several ports listed, their scores, a small screenshot (possibly linking to an YouTube video, but on the post it’ll just be an image), and an optional short (1-2 sentences) comment. All of this possibly followed by a conclusion. That’s it.

Any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to comment. 🙂

Conversion Wars: Intro

Welcome to yet another series on Winterdrake! Just a little bit of personal info: I subscribe to the UK Retro Gamer magazine; among other reasons, because, unlike any other gaming magazine, I don’t ever have to worry about it getting old: it is old, intentionally. Nostalgia is a beautiful emotion.

Anyway, in that mag, one of my favorite bits — which doesn’t even appear in every issue, but the magazine is still great without it ((if you care about any of my “retro gaming” posts at all, look it up, and, no, the previous link isn’t an “affiliate” one)) is the comparison of the several ports / versions of a game, whether the game originated in arcades (common in the late 80s / early 90s) or in a particular computer system. I really love that part: to look at screenshots and descriptions of how a game was ported / interpreted on each system, how it played, and, sometimes, even the stories behind a couple of ports. Call me weird; I really love this; it’s one of the few times I am able to “feed” several parts of myself: video games, computer systems, nostalgia, and history.

So, I thought about creating a series of posts based exactly on that.

Typically, there will be one post per game, with a few exceptions where a particular game will need two posts (say, one about home computer ports and the other about console ports). I intend to pick the games myself, mostly from the ones I remember — and I already have a bunch of them in mind –, though I’m always open to suggestions.

And, because I grew up with magazines that bestowed numerical ratings on different aspects of games (e.g. graphics, sound, gameplay, etc.), I’ll do the same. For now, to make this simple, my ratings will be just between 1 and 5, for “terrible”, “bad”, “average”, “good” and “great”. And the aspects I’ll rate each conversion in are:

  1. faithfulness: how well a port reproduces its original version, in terms of levels, features, and so on. In almost every case, there is an original version, even if that’s not immediately obvious. If there really isn’t one, then all ports get a maximum score (5) here, as will happen if we’re talking about the original version of a game. ((e.g. Out Run ports will be compared to the original arcade version, which won’t be included here. But, say, Cybernoid ports will be compared to the original ZX Spectrum version, which will be included as a “port”.))
  2. hardware use: how much a particular conversion takes advantage of the system it runs on. In other words, top scores for “this system couldn’t really do much better than this”, and lowest scores for “this computer/console could have handled a much better version”. Exception: if a version reproduces the original perfectly, it will get a maximum score here, even if the original hardware was much more primitive (e.g. a port for modern systems of a 30-year-old game). ((for instance, an Xbox 360 version of Pac-Man which emulated the original perfectly wouldn’t be penalized, even though the 360 is capable of much more than an 8-bit 1980 arcade machine. On the other hand, if the Amiga port of Space Harrier plays slower than the Spectrum 48K version, doesn’t really look much better, and has loading pauses between levels that the Spectrum port was able to avoid…))
  3. fun: in a world where this game wasn’t a port at all, where there were no other versions of it, and where you were playing it on its merits alone, instead of pining for the fjords the original, how enjoyable would this particular version be to play (assuming you enjoyed the genre)?

For instance, suppose you’re talking about a conversion of a beat ’em up game, and not only doesn’t it include most of the features of the original, but in fact it doesn’t look or play much like it… yet it’s still a great, enjoyable game by itself. It’d get a low score in faithfulness, but a high score in fun. On the other hand, if a port reproduced every feature and level of the original, but played like a dog, its scores would be the other way around.

AWStats tip: removing ‘chromebar’ from search keyphrases

Being still less than a month old, it’s normal that I keep looking at this blog‘s stats quite often, and one of the most interesting bits — especially if you care about SEO — is the top search keyphrases list. I use both AWStats and Google Analytics for this site, and, concerning the former, I had been curious for a while about why the top search leading people to my blog was apparently for “chromebar“.

Now, I’m pretty sure I had never mentioned that term on this blog, so I thought AWStats might have been doing something wrong. A quick grep on my logs, and where “chromebar” came from became obvious: it’s from the StumbleUpon add-on for Google Chrome. The whole combination was necessary; StumbleUpon users with other browsers weren’t triggering anything like this.

Now, here’s what the “referrer” part of a hit from StumbleUpon, using Chrome with the SU add-on, looks like:


While a hit’s referrer from SU with another browser looks like this:


See the difference? The Chrome version has a query string: ?device=chromebar&version=chromebar% , while the other one doesn’t. And “chromebar” appears at the beginning of that query string.

Now, StumbleUpon is listed as a “search engine” in AWStats, in a file called lib/ , and that file optionally specifies which part of a query string (e.g. “q=“) from the referrer is the actual search. For some search engines, however, no such part is specified — meaning that they don’t provide it in the “referrer” part of the hit. Such is the case with StumbleUpon, where the query string part is an empty string.

But there seems to be a bug (or maybe it’s an intended feature?) in AWStats here: if no part of a query string is specified, and yet there is a query string, AWStats seems to use the first part it catches. As you can see above, that was ?device= , and it was always set to chromebar.

The easiest way around this problem (I don’t know if the AWStats authors will consider this a bug or not; I’ll try to report the problem in the near future) is to edit lib/ and add a non-existing query string part to StumbleUpon. Open that file with a text editor and look for this line:


and change it to:


Presto! No more “chromebar” entries in your stats in the future. (It won’t delete current entries, though, unless you clear your AWStats cache files for that month and generate new stats.)

Search engine hits: Google vs. Bing (part 2: positions)

In my previous post, Search engine hits: Google vs. Bing (part 1), I showed how three of my sites — a recent US-hosted blog in English, a popular Portugal-hosted forum in Portuguese, and a search engine-weak US-hosted aggregator in English — had a much greater proportion of search engine hits from Google than from Bing — about 100 Google hits for each 2-3 Bing hits. Naturally, the next step would be to investigate whether this is just a matter of quantity — in other words, Bing has 2-3% of the users Google has –, or whether there are other factors affecting this, such as the three sites having better rankings in Google than in Bing. This, then, is the subject of this post.

The method I’ll be using is the following: for each of the same three sites used in the last post, I’ll be searching for a number of phrases that I think should, reasonably, lead a user to the site. I won’t look at my stats to get the top phrases from there; as most hits come from Google, I’d just be using phrases that I already know work for that engine. And, for each phrase, I’ll note the position my site came in — it at all.

Remember that a lower number is better. Also, a caveat: I am not really testing how “good” each search engine is, only how good it is at sending people to my sites from appropriate queries. I have, however, avoided “gaming the system”; the queries are reasonable and not “custom-designed” to lead people to where I want, and the pages / sites are relevant to them.

Note: all queries were as written below; i.e. without quotes.



For this very blog, I searched for things I know I posted about — but not the exact titles. Instead, I tried strings that I myself would use if searching for those subjects:

wasp room full of menN/A (1)1
chaos spectrum43
penetrator spectrum22
awstats mrtgN/A (1)2
awstats static pagesN/A (1)1
nudity art pornN/A (2)6


For that MyBB forum with mostly Brazilian and Portuguese users, I didn’t go for particular posts, just some strings that a Portuguese-speaking person could possibly use, and I counted the first forum post that appeared. I tried to diversify; hence the “dragonball”, “dragon ball” and “dbz”. I also tried both and, which seem to prioritize pages differently (perhaps because that site is hosted in Portugal);, however, was exactly the same as in terms of results, only with the user interface in Portuguese.

fórum dragonball311
dragonball portugal422011
dragonball português6314
dbz português10132
dragon ball episódios714

Planet Atheism:

And, finally, my FeedWordPress-based blog aggregator. As I explained in the previous post, PA doesn’t ever show posts individually; there are only the main page (and, page 2, page 3, etc.), author pages, and archives by date. On all of these, the post links go to the original blog posts; therefore, search engines treat all of PA as non-original content (and this is by design); because of that, searching for something in a particular post is mostly useless. My alternative was to search for more general terms:

atheism blog327
atheist blog3N/A (2)
atheism40N/A (2)

(1) category pages that included the post were indexed, but not the post itself
(2) not in the first 100 results, at least


For Winterdrake, Bing was a pleasant surprise, winning 5.5-0.5. Not only did it apparently index every post in the site, even some very recent ones, but it also returned a first page result for everything I threw at it — including two “number ones” that Google doesn’t even seem to currently index, for some reason. Therefore, a Bing user actually has a greater chance of getting to Winterdrake — assuming he or she is interested in something on it — than a Google user. In other words, Bing wins on “quality” — but still only sends me 3% of the users Google does. Are there really so few people using Bing? I had figured something like a 10-20% market share, not 2-3%…

As for the few non-indexed posts on Google, when the category pages have been indexed after the posts were written, I assume the reason for that is the fact that Winterdrake is still very new, and has almost no incoming links. In a couple of months, I expect that new posts will be quickly indexed by Google, as Bing already does. Still, there’s currently an advantage for Bing here.

DragonBall-PT gets mixed results. Compared to, Bing wins 3-2. Compared to, however, Bing loses 1.5-3.5, meaning that “which” of the Googles people use is an important factor. Still, if we assume that most people use “their” national Google (I don’t, but I’m weird…), Google wins this time, and that was reflected in the results on the last post: Bing sent me only 2% of the people Google (all of them put together) did.

Finally, for Planet Atheism, Bing is a big disappointment, losing 0-3 to Google. 🙁 Either because it “hates” non-original content to a much greater degree that Google does, or because it is less “intelligent” in adapting to / understanding similar terms, it failed to show PA in the first 100 results for two thirds of the search strings I used, while Google did great with two of them, and even had a reasonably decent result for an incredibly competitive, 1-word term such as “atheism”.

Another thing I noticed is that most of the first couple of results pages in Bing for my atheism-related queries actually showed anti-atheism blogs (“atheism sucks”, “stop atheism”, and several others). That’s like searching for “democratic party” and getting mostly Republican propaganda pages. 🙂 I don’t want to sound paranoid… it’s probably just an algorithmic thing, instead of there being a less-than-honest religious programmer at Microsoft… 😉

EDIT: I’ve just noticed that the three tables above look quite bad on the RSS feed. If you want them more readable, please see the original blog post. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Search engine hits: Google vs. Bing (part 1)

Having been interested in SEO for a long time, one of the things I naturally do is look at how many people are coming from the several search engines. While many people seem to care only about hits from Google, I think that 1) monopolies are bad, and 2) precisely because so many people optimize only for Google, there may be an “untapped market” of people who use other search engines. So, I’ve been doing a little investigating, and here’s what I found. Today, I will only be comparing Google with Microsoft’s Bing; I may look at Yahoo! or some other time.

So, let’s begin with this very blog, Winterdrake. Hosted in the US, it’s a very young site, having only launched on March 3, 2011… which means that it’s just 22 days old today. Naturally, one shouldn’t expect a lot of search engine hits on such a recent site (and there aren’t), but it allows us to look at yet another interesting factor: which search engine is quicker to index and send hits to new sites? Let’s look at a (terrible-looking; I’m no graphic designer, and it shows) chart:

Winterdrake - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
Winterdrake - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
Bing hits: 3.36% of Google hits

Not very good in terms of Bing hits, is it? Let’s look at another, more popular and established site: DragonBall-PT, a Portuguese-language forum, hosted in Portugal, launched in 2007, with mostly Brazilian and Portuguese users, which has a few thousand hits per day:

DragonBall-PT - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
DragonBall-PT - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
Bing hits: 2.12% of Google hits

As you can see, while, as an absolute number, there are a lot more hits from Bing (a little below 2000), the proportion in relation to Google is even worse.

This can be explained in several ways. First, Bing seems to be more optimized for the US and/or English language sites, while Google appears to be more “international”. Another possibility, of course, is that almost no one in Portugal or Brazil uses Bing. But, to discount the “optimized for the US/English” factor, let’s look at a third site, one that is 1) relatively old, and 2) in English, and hosted in the US.

Planet Atheism is the world’s top aggregator of atheism-related blogs. It’s (by design) not good for search engines, as all its content is duplicated from the member blogs (and every member either asked to join or accepted an invitation; no one is aggregated there without permission), and PA doesn’t show individual posts ever. Click on a post title, and you are taken to the post on the original blog. In other words, PA is by design “below” every single one of its blogs in terms of search engine positions; most hits come from people who actually search for PA itself, or for “atheist blog(s)” or something like that.

On the other hand, it’s an established site (launched in 2006), hosted in the US, and in English. Let’s see how it looks like:

Planet Atheism - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
Planet Atheism - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
Bing hits: 2.20% of Google hits

Ouch. Not very good for Bing, is it?

So, we’ve shown that Bing is sending about 2-3 hits for every 100 sent by Google, a very small percentage. But now for the million dollar question: why? Logically, there are two possibilities:

  1. Bing is performing “worse”: that is, either doesn’t index sites as well as Google, or it is giving them worse positions — possibly out of the first page for results Google shows in the first 10 results; or
  2. Bing is actually performing “as well” as Google (or possibly even better), but it has only about 2-3% of the users Google has.

Note that, in either case, Google has a lot more users; the question is whether, for the same number of users, Bing is performing worse, better, or the same. And I think we can find out… but this post is getting a bit long, so I’ll leave that for Part 2.

Now on PlanetGeek

Yes, as of today, Winterdrake is a part of PlanetGeek, Portugal’s most popular (hmm, are there any others at the moment?) aggregator of geek-related blogs. Yes, this blog’s content is in English, and my “geekiness” relates more to the American concept than to the Portuguese one, but that’s not really a problem… and, besides, a lot of stuff here relates to Portugal — especially the nostalgic posts about the ZX Spectrum and the Portuguese “scene” in the 80s.

Some people already familiar with PlanetGeek may be wondering: “didn’t you already have a blog aggregated on PG?” Yes, it was my personal blog — but, to be honest, that aggregation never really made sense (and I blame myself): a personal blog, to me, is a place to be personal, but I stopped writing personal posts a short time after that aggregation because either I didn’t want to share them with so many strangers (PG is quite popular), or because I thought that they wouldn’t be interested in my personal stuff. Now, this blog being aggregated there makes a lot more sense, and so I asked them to switch the aggregated blog… and here we are. 🙂

“The Games of my Life” is migrating here

You may not be aware, but yours truly has had a blog completely dedicated to video games, “The Games of my Life” (no link, since it’s now closed, but it’s pretty easy to google for it, if you really want to), since 2005, though it had been mostly dead for the last couple of years. Well, as I said, TGomL is now closed, and while it’ll remain online in a read-only format (no more comments or posts), I won’t renew the domain registration when it expires, so it’ll eventually be gone from the web (except for the Internet Archive, I guess).

However, I think that there are some classic posts there that don’t deserve to die, so, during the next weeks, I will be copying them to Winterdrake — labeled as such, of course; I won’t be pretending that they’re new), and redirecting the old URLs to their equivalents here. My idea is to transfer one post per day. With improvements, in many cases.

All that in addition to actually new posts, of course. Enjoy!

Geeks in the US as opposed to Portugal

I mentioned in the previous post that one of the reasons I created a new blog for posting about “geeky” subjects was that the otherwise most appropriate possibility was my personal blog, which is in Portuguese, and I wanted these posts to be in English. But why is that, you may ask?

There’s a funny difference between “geekdom” in my native country, Portugal, and the USA. In America, being a geek is associated with stuff such as science fiction (especially, but not only, Star Trek and Star Wars), fantasy, role-playing games (RPGs), board games, video games, and so on. All that in addition to technology and computers.

In Portugal? A typical “geek” is interested in technology and computers. That’s it.

Considering that all of the above are among my interests, you can see how I have much more in common with American geeks than with Portuguese ones. It’s not that there aren’t people in Portugal interested in Trek, Tolkien, D&D or strategy games with 200-page manuals, but they are comparatively very rare… and they’ll all understand English perfectly, anyway. 🙂 So, as I wanted to reach the largest possible audience… English it is.