links for 2008-09-24

Lame Pixel Ads

This whole pixel ad thing is getting lame pretty quickly. Pixel ads, for those who haven’t been following, are web pages where each pixel of the screen is sold as ad space. It worked well for UK student Alex Tew, who made $1 million from his aptly named As with all things involving money, people quickly saw a quick buck. The only problem is: Tew didn’t make his money because he sold pixel space, he made money because of the buzz he created about his new idea.

This hasn’t stopped folks. Google Pixel ads and you get 8 sponsored ads and nearly 900,000 hits, including, and Here’s the latest “twist”:, which claims to have an edge by creating a, er, work of art from all the pixels it sells. “We took the original pixel ads concept and made it in to a mosaic art form, in the process creating the first internet work of art,” co-site creator Martin Westwood says in a press release. The idea is that the resulting pixel picture will be a mosaic, according to the FAQ.

Lame, lame, lame. The original worked because it was, well, original. People wanted to go visit the page because it was a new idea. The rest will just die slowly, and, hopefully, quietly. BuckAPixel, for example, which tops the Google hits, has had 25 visitors today and has so far sold 11,300 out of 1 million pixels. You do the math. It’ll be interesting to see just how short a lifespan these kind of ideas have. It’s because they’re novelties. Repeat after me: Novelty does not a good business model make.

Flash, Floating Ads And Hijacking Your Webcam

I haven’t had time to look at this closely, and humble apologies if this is old hat, but can pop-up ads hijack users’ web-cams and microphones?

I was surfing at a website called This Is London, when on one page a pop-up Flash ad appeared for Starbucks. I was using Mozilla Firefox 0.7 and it just would not disappear from right above the first few paragraphs of the piece I was trying to read. Like this:

I right clicked on it and got a menu option for Flash settings. When I clicked on that, this is what popped up (well this is another ad that appeared on the same page when I viewed it in another browser, but it’s pretty much the same apart from the website address):

The earlier website was for, which doesn’t resolve, but which I’m assuming is part of Tangozebra, a ‘leading online advertising and marketing solutions provider in the UK’. The other link,, doesn’t resolve either but is registered to New York-based online advertising company You can repeat the trick of getting the above window to appear if you click on their floating ad example and then right click on the ad.

So what is going on? I realise I’m not the first to spot this kind of thing, and the innocent explanation is that it is a built in feature of Macromedia Flash, not some sinister part of the floating ad thing. (Here’s Macromedia’s take on this, which seems to be nearly two years old.) But if this has been the case for a while, why has it not been stopped? And what would happen if I did allow the Flash program to access my camera and microphone? And, lastly, why would the Starbucks ad not disappear until I clicked on it and allowed another window to pop up?

A New Paint Shop Pro

Adobe Photoshop’s old challenger, Paint Shop Pro, is back.

Jasc Software yesterday announced the launch of Paint Shop Pro 9 and something called Paint Shop Pro Studio, a “photo editor for consumers who want to do more than novice editing without a steep learning curve”.

Paint Shop Pro 9 takes the photo and graphics editor a bit further, Jasc says, with stuff like digital camera noise removal (I didn’t even know there was something like that), a chromatic aberration removal filter, fill flash and Raw image support, features Jasc says are “often sold individually for hundreds of dollars”. Paint Shop Pro 9 costs $130 while Paint Shop Pro Studio is $80, which includes a free copy of the standard edition of Paint Shop Photo Album 5.

I’ll be test-driving these products in a later column.