iPad

I've not been doing many blogs lately, and those that I have done have mostly been book reviews.

Got my daughter an iPad a while ago, I had pre-ordered one, and then the official release date came and went, and went a bit more. My hopes were significantly raised when I heard that the iPad had been dispatched from the factory, until I realised that the factory was in China and the iPad would still take an age to arrive.

4757144136

But eventually it did turn up, one daughter had guessed that we had ordered one, but the other, the recipient, had not. So it was a huge surprise for her. There was a pleasant, oohhhh factor as you opened up the box, and setting it up, was as simple as connecting it to iTunes.

We have all had a little play with it, but it is essentially my daughter's, so she has it set up with her stuff and uses it as she wants to.

I have had a go with The Elements, which is pretty impressive, but overpriced. The rest of the family seem to enjoy Angry Birds and Labyrinth.

When it comes to web browsing it seems pretty unsatisfactory to me. My finger is too fat to work on a crowded menu, and most websites seem really badly laid out for the iPad. Either the menus are too small, or you keep on going down cul-de-sacs, and retracing your steps. I find web-browsing on my laptop a far more compelling waste of time.

However, it should be easy enough for websites to be reconfigured with iPad friendly versions, and some of this is just down my inbuilt preference for whatever I am familiar with.

If I did have my own iPad, then I would probably use it for watching TED Talks on my commute, and anything else that did not need much typing. I don't see it replacing a desktop computer or a laptop, it is just a new category of device, and more importantly a new way to consume media.

Of course I don't have my own iPad, my daughter does, and she is virtually inseparable from it. It is on the go all day long. So it is just as well you get a day's worth of charge with the battery, because it is well used every day.

If the iPad cost could come down by half, then they would become totally ubiquitous. It is attractive, easy to use, and can only get more useful.

Bumptop is no more

bumptop desktop




For those who do not know about it, Bumptop is software to create a three dimensional desktop on your computer. There are windows and mac versions, well there were. At the start of May the company was bought by Google and the software has now been withdrawn and is no longer being supported.

The mac version lets me lasso together files into piles, pin up material on virtual cubicle walls, and employs a physics engine so that items 'bump' into each other. Though I have never found the 'bump' effect to be particularly noticeable.

There was a ted talk on bumptop, and they have clearly had a lot of venture capital funding as they have been working away for a while now, with only a discretionary charge for the pro version.

Bumptop is a marmite product. You either love it or hate it. It will inevitably slow down your computer and it is just a metaphor on top of the desktop metaphor. It only applies to the very top-most desktop, so you don't actually see or work with it much. Personally I find it a useful way to organise my desktop and to date have been happy to live with the inevitable slowing of initial boot-ups.

It is difficult to figure out what Google have bought, presumably they are not going to keep Bumptop going as the same sort of product, a desktop enhancement, but it seems unlikely that any existing patents would be so wide ranging as to cover entirely new devices on which it could be installed. Even if Google think it is the best thing since sliced bread, why buy it when you could just copy it.

In any event a lot of mac users hate it, and mac users are far more attracted to eye-candy than PC users, perhaps Google think that this is the way to add an iPhone like tactile appeal to their devices?

Anyway, I am sorry that Bumptop is no longer being supported, I enjoy using it, and would have liked to see it develop further.

doing digital

IMAG0154



Maybe it is just me, but for some reason when I do something digital I always feel that it is somehow less worthwhile than something that is less digital.

So an email not worth as much as a letter, reading a website is not worth as much as reading a newspaper, organising a computer's hard drive is not worth as much as tidying up a room, sorting out my webpage is not worth as much as fixing a cupboard.

There is a certain satisfaction to be had from posting a real letter, but I suppose we had better get used to living in a virtual world.

further to my website woes

by way of explanation as to why my website vanished for a week or two and has now reappeared.

I had been playing about with various settings that I did not really understand and accidentally amended where the website was getting uploaded to! All now fixed. But in future I will only publish my most recent blog postings on my website
http://www.sposh.demon.co.uk/

with the full set of blog postings appearing on
http://tallmanbaby.blogspot.com/

I might upgrade and get a php enabled account for my website, but I always hate committing to spending money on a monthly basis, so maybe not.

website woes

For some time now the main focus of my website has been my blog. However the advice on the forums seems to be that a Rapidweaver blog will fall over eventually, and I am best to use some other approach.

That is why I switched to Rapidblog, which works with a blogger account and basically seems to paste in content from the blogger account into your page as displayed on a browser. Creating a page on the fly for you.

However this did not work. After some checking with the application support and my internet provider support, the issue seems to be that to use Rapidblog and php I need to have my website enable for php, which it is not. I would need to upgrade my website to allow this at an additional monthly cost.

I'll have a hum and a haw on whether it is worth paying monthly for webpages with php enabled, or whether I will just use blogger for my blogging, Flickr for photos, and my website for anything else.

I have no interest in crosswords for example, but trying to get a webpage working is something that I quite enjoy the challenge of, in an aggravating sort of way.

On the other hand, I have plenty of useful stuff to do, and the website is not really a major issue in the scheme of things. It is at risk of becoming a time sink, swallowing a lot of my time in doing technical support work. Watch this space, or not, as the case may be,

In the meantime, my blogger account is
http://tallmanbaby.blogspot.com/

Snow Leopard upgrade updated

Just some further observations on Snow Leopard after a week.

Additional glitches - Mail ceased to send emails via my ISP, this has now sorted itself with no intervention on my part. It does rather confirm my view that the way to go, is to use googlemail for my default mail address. I know some people get paranoid about cloud computing by in my experience it is more reliable.

Rapidweaver would not run, installed an updated beta version, subsequently fully released. Also had to update all my plugins. Just downloaded and installed all the plugins that I have bought. They all seemed to behave and recognised that I had already paid for them.

Various other applications are providing free updates, nothing too troubling.

The mobile me sync option seems to run for a loooonnnnggg time, and the update dates looks odd, but suspect it is a teething thing. Nothing actually worrying, just general oddness.

My ipod needed a reinstall, no one else has had this problem, so it is probably unrelated.

The newly installed printer driver now lacks the heading cleaning option, it is just a generic driver lacking the full functionality of the original driver (ink status, head cleaning, test page), but it does seem to printer sharper copies and now sorts them into the correct order, which it did not do before. I can just press a button on the printer for three seconds to get it to do the head cleaning, so this is not too worrying.

My laptop hard drive makes a small noise, I don't recall from before.

Good but odd changes, computers will now run a screensaver even when they are not logged in. iTunes offering sharing in a more transparent manner, albeit sharing between different accounts logged in to the same wifi hub, rather than sharing between different accounts on the same machine. The iTunes wishlists is a nice add-on, though I simply dragged tracks to a wishlist playlist, and it served the same purpose, with less eye candy.

The new iTunes store is a thing of rare ugliness, but I am starting to get used to it. iUniversity still looks old style.

Spore has frozen once, but that seems to be the first time it has done it, so I am not too worried.

Otherwise, nice to all be operating on the same system, and flakiness seems reduced, there are a few nice tweaks, and everything is faster, but not much that you would notice. The iLife and iWork apps are similarly nicer in a suble sort of way.

Snow Leopard upgrade

My Mac Box Set (family edition) arrived during the week, so I have now upgraded all three of our domestic computers to OS 10.6 Snow Leopard, and to iWork 09 and iLife 09. Two of the computers were on OS 10.5 Leopard and one on OS 10.4 Tiger. [There is also an Acorn and dead bondi blue iMac up the loft, obviously I did not upgrade them!]

It will be good to have everything on the same OS again. Things progressively seem to gather complexity, so I need to take the opportunity to simplify when it arises.

Impressions ?

Doing three computers takes ages, particularly if you add in things like backing up, and checking over the drives with Disk Utility. However working through them systematically, getting one computer pretty much sorted before I started on the next one, it was possible to do them all in about a day.

By way of explanation for the incredible time taken, a back up can take an hour, creating a timemachine vault for the first time takes several hours, each Snow Leopard install took just under an hour. iWork was around twenty minutes, iLife around forty minutes.

It is worth keeping an eye on the process, just in case of snags. Interestingly the Leopard-Snow Leopard upgrades rebooted part way through while the Tiger-Snow Leopard upgrades rebooted almost immediately. Presumably the reboot is to allow the computer to run off the OS on the DVD rather than the one on the Hard drive.

The most noticeable feature is the faces recognition in iPhoto, which similarly takes half an hour to process all your photos.

The Garageband tutorials don't seem to have caught anyone's imagination.

It is now possible to customise the date and time setting to include the full date in your menubar- yayyy !

Full screen capability in Pages - yayyy !

It shutsdown just incredibly quickly, like it crashed! everything else seems quicker too

General reduction of flakiness about ejecting disks, deleting trash etc.

Conclusion
- is snow leopard worth it - yes, it seems robust, frees up hard drive space, speeds up processes and reduces general flakiness - having said that it is not noticeable in a whizzy eye candy sort of way
- is iWork worth it - probably not on its own, but if you are doing the whole bundle then probably worthwhile. Some nice new things, but new templates are really just eye candy, you never use them do you?
- is iLife worth it - probably, faces recognition is a cool and useful add on. Without GPS on my camera, I'm not so much of an anorak that I want to manually insert geographic information.
- would I recommend my mum upgrade - yes, but on the grounds that it will just make everything run smoother, not on the grounds that it will look any different.

It is really cool that Apple have managed to sell an upgrade that really does not look any different. However the under the hood stuff is impressive.
http://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2009/08/mac-os-x-10-6.ars

As I noted above, things do seem to get more complicated, you do have to be brutal every now and again to make them simpler. The review above is very good on how Apple have made decisions, including difficult ones,

[such as leaving a relatively open door to pirate copies, abandonning support for old stuff, not filling your hard drive with unnecessary printer drivers - assuming you are connected to the internet to download the ones you require instead]

on the basis that they improve the user experience, even if it does mean alienating people running twenty year old scuzzy (SCSI) printers.

Perhaps the real genius has been to release an update with no new features and have the marketting chutzpah to convince people that it is a good thing that they want to pay for.

Technical savvy + marketting savvy = apple savvy


Annex A
My suggested approach
1 run software update
2 back up system
3 dismount external hard drive
4 install AppTrap - to cleanly delete applications
5 check AppTrap is running
6 review all applications, and delete anything that is really old or does not get used - goodbye Quicksilver
7 where applicable, delete podcasts to get enough free space on the hard drive for installing everything - only really an issue with the laptop
8 run disk utility
9 run onyx and do maintenance scripts
10 run Snow Leopard update
11 run iLife update
12 run iWork update
13 run through applications to get updates if required
14 delete superceded applications from Dock
15 after light usage back up again

Annex B
snagging issues
Bento 1 - does not run under Snow Leopard - need to upgrade to Bento version 2 to run under leopard
Onyx will not run under Snow Leopard - simply wait for an update version
Mail reports issues with Omnifocus script - presumably the script that lets you send an item to your email and have it appear in your omnifocus task list.
Mail once again will not send mail - I'll need to speak to tech support for my ISP about this, but I have pretty much switched to using Googlemail and Mailplane so this is not a pressing issue.

Annex C
observations - Spore does work, pretty much everything else still seems to work, with the exceptions noted above no problems encountered.

Spore

I had posted a while back on why I would not be buying Spore.

My youngest daughter threw a mega huff when her tamagochi died, it was seventh generation or something, so I relented and got her Spore. I figured that anyone who got get that vexed about a tiny pixilated virtual something, would probably find Spore engaging.

I saw a copy in the AppleStore, but it looked awfully expensive, so checking out Amazon on the free internet that they provide I figured out I could certainly shave a tenner off the cost with some judicious shopping.

I've installed it onto my newest computer, running on an administrator account. All a bit odd, but the reviews seems to be that it really does not like having to scrape by on an older machine.

Feedback? Well the target audience, youngest daughter loves it. She has been happily lost in it for a few weeks now. Oldest daughter had a brief go or two, only to quickly find youngest daughter a bit over eager with the assisting when it got difficult.

I've not tried it myself, so I don't really know much about it. It does look to be relatively linear, but that probably is no bad thing, just exploring might get a bit dull. The final stage universes do seem absolutely vast. There was even a wormhole! The use of user created creatures looks to be a really neat touch, there is even one species that looks like giant bananas.

In a nutshell, if you are into this sort of thing, then it is a really amazing game, but it is not going to engage everyone. If you want to see how quickly you can get to the end of the game, then you missing the point.

tinkering with my website

Thankfully things have quietened down a little recently, and I have been distractedly tinkering with my website.

Running a website is one of those things that seems to be entirely resistant to methodical project planning. Rather than setting out with a clear objective, it seems to be a process of tinkering, fixing the problems you created, finding new things you want to do, getting fed up with the time it is taking, leaving it alone, coming back to it with a better idea. Probably an iterative process in the jargon.

Specifically I have returned to trying to put a search function onto my website, I had tried before with the Google Search option that you could insert using code that Google supplied. However this never seemed to pick up on material deeper within my site, so I ended up removing it.

Lately a new RapidWeaver plugin has appeared. [RapidWeaver is the Macintosh application that I use for coding the website, but it is supported with a rich ecosystem of plugins and themes.] So I have tried RapidSearch, it seemed to encounter similar problems, the developer advises that no one else has reported anything similar, so I am wondering if it might be how the pages are nested within each other that is offending the Google sitecrawlers somehow.

Anyway, I have installed a sitemap, courtesy of Sitemap by Loghound, and tried to simplify my website so that there is less nesting of folders, page elements, and the main blog page is now the home page, rather than deeper within the structure.

I will just have to put the whole issue to one side for a while and wait and see if once the Google sitecrawlers have passed over the site again it is all tickety boo.

I have also been doing a little additional tinkering. Yesterday I put in a favicon. No I didn't know what it was either, it is the wee icon in the address bar that some sites have.

I really will need to get the RapidWeaver manual and read through it properly, my site is getting to be complicated enough that it is probably worth me having a rough idea what I am actually doing.

I might even get round to enabling comments on my blog!

All in all it is just a gradual process of getting the hang of a certain level of complexity, tinkering away around the limits of my capability, and thereby gradually expanding them. There is probably a lot else in life that is much the same.

Wireless Router

My broadband connection has been upgraded at ADSL 2, no I don't know what that means either, but my broadband supplier (Demon) offered me an upto date router which was ADSL 2 friendly. They rather generously offered a wireless option, so I have bitten the bullet and gone wireless.

I seem to remember when I first signed up for broadband, I had to pay for the router, and it was around fifty pounds. My Broadband provider encouraged people to buy one of a small number of routers, no doubt on the grounds that anything that makes technical support a little less painful must be a good thing. The wireless one cost a bit more, and I did not see the need at the time.

However over the years I have taken to using my laptop a lot more, and my wife borrows a laptop from college for coursework, so, having the shift the dog off the sofa, and plug in an ethernet cable for accessing the internet was getting to be a bit of a pain. And lets face it, these days, if you cannot access the internet, your computer is about as much use as a brick. (slight exaggeration)

So, it all arrived earlier this week, the router had been pre-configured, but running a macintosh I'm always a little sceptical of such things. I had a bit of free time yesterday, so I shouted at the rest of the family to shut up, read through, and set the whole thing up. It really was just a case of plugging it in, except for setting up the wireless, which was slightly more involved, but only because I had mistyped my password first time round.

And now - I so love having wireless broadband. It works throughout the house. I can dip into the internet from wherever I am sitting with my laptop. The connection does seem quicker, though it can drop now and again.

Best of all, I was making a case for going wireless and buying an airport extreme, at over £100, and through doing nothing a wireless router has in effect fallen into my lap!

Result !!

MacHeist 3

I have just bought and installed MacHeist 3, well as much of it as is available for download today, there are a few applications that might still be unlocked before the promotions closes.

MacHeist is basically a software package of various Mac shareware applications that you can buy for a pretty reasonable all in price, of $39. I had already bought quite a few of the application before, so on the face of it, it was not an obvious decision whether to purchase it. However I sent on the email flyer to the rest of the family, and we eventually agreed to buy the package.

So far the games, World of Goo and Cro Magnon Racer have been huge family hits. I'll probably have a go with Times an RSS feedreader, although I am starting to get to grips with Google Reader, it does seem to shoot up to hundred of unread articles pretty much instantly.

Unfortunately downloading and installing a dozen different applications by a dozen different shareware developers is an experience in itself. I was in correspondence with one developer and he replied

Support is everything.  It's the most costly part of being a developer.  Some larger corporations lose track of this fact, but as a small company (it's just me) it's very easy to notice.  ;-)If I do anything that increases support I will not be able to spend time on development.  If I don't spend time on development then I don't make money.  To function as a business your development efforts need to be spent minimizing your future support load.  It's just that simple.



The better applications consistently seem to be the ones that are easiest to install, I suppose the developers either put their effort into reducing future support calls, or they don't and they end up firefighting. I don't imagine that I will ever earn a living a software developer, but it there is probably a useful principle in there somewhere. It really does pay to anticipate what your customers want.


I've fixed my RSS feed,




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Apple Mcintosh icon problems under OS 10.4 Tiger



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Blogging - we are all pundits now

The internet means that our attention is swamped with the views of pundits. A pundit being someone who has little real depth of expertise in a subject.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but we need to remember to seek out pundits that challenge our thinking, and introduce us to new ideas, rather than sticking to pundits who just tell us what we want to hear. The difference between a pundit and an expert, is that the pundit has never had to study the whole of a subject, just the bits that interested them.

An expert at least knows what he is not telling you, often a pundit only knows what he is telling you.

No Safety - a Mountain Goats' tribute album

I have lately been enjoying listening to No Safety, a tribute album to one of my favourite bands, the Mountain Goats.

The full story is available within a thread on the Mountain Goats' website, most of the tracks are on a single file for download, although there were a couple that missed the compilation that are appended to postings, and are well worth seeking out.

Someone started off the forum thread with a suggestion that people each contribute their own cover of the track Going to Georgia for a tribute album. Going to Georgia is one of the most popular tracks by the Mountain Goats, though I must confess to not being terribly vexed about it as a track.

Now the idea seems a bit borderline sensible, borderline bonkers. However it actually works very well. The different versions are all sufficiently differentiated to be worth listening too, and because it is the same song, they actually hang together pretty well. It makes for a good background album, you maybe don't need to think about it too much, but it will occassionally grab your interest with something totally arresting or surprising.

I do hope that I am not damning with faint praise, it is a really enjoyable listen, every track is different and of a professional standard, while having a real indie creative vibe to it. There is nothing workmanlike to any of the tracks. The tracks that have most caught me so far have been one by Joe Harbison, which is instantly compelling and electronic, and a bonkers version sung in Norwegian, but there is not a dud version amongst them. Clearly these are some very talented and creative people.


It used to be that what we saw, read, listened to, were all mediated through the process of being published. So quality was consistent, maybe not high, but certainly consistent. The Bloomsbury Set, Algonquin Round Table, or a myriad of other groups demonstrated how narrow and non-inclusive this process was.

However now there need be no mediation through the process of being published. Self publication used to be the vanity press, and accordingly distained. Now numerous people have demonstrated the ability to move from self-publication on the web to creating a perfectly valid career of their own. I have probably touched on this already, so I won't stress over listing folk like Merlin Mann, Scott Sigler, and Jonathan Coulton.

Equally valid there are plenty of people who create material of interest and genuine worth that finds its own small audience. In the past this might have involved bands doing weddings and random gigs at pubs, either performing generic material that people liked, or less generic material that most people did not like, even if a few did.

But now it is straightforward to create material, straightforward to make it available more widely, straightforward to find very niche product. Talent is required rather than just technique or contacts.

Accordingly I can now listen to an album of different versions of the same song, by a band that most people have never even heard of. All the songs are produced with professionalism, passion and real flair.

The world is changing, and sometimes it changes for the better.

reality has once again reasserted itself

I have been relatively remiss with blogging recently.

After making vast in-roads into my plans to blitz the world of arts and ideas, with gazillions of pitches of every subject under the sun, things have rather slowed down to a more ponderous rate after the initial frenzy. That is not to say that there was anything wrong with my original thinking. However for the first couple of weeks, I was relatively quiet at work, had an extra day off each week, and was not doing much at the weekend. Accordingly it was relatively easy to find the time to do all this pitching and working up of creative ideas.

Reality has once again reasserted itself, in the various dimensions that it is prone to.

1 Work
2 Creativity
3 Blogging and web-siting

At work, things seem to have moved up to a rather hectic pace, so hectic that it all rather zen, just figure out what I need to do, then do it. Scant time to think, plan, wonder or worry. Hopefully things will slip down a notch or two, but things might conspire against this. I have taken on an entire other job, in addition to the admittedly light duties that I already had. I have been volunteered to do some work for senior management, which rather means that I have to do a good job of it, and I don't want to be making excuses about not getting stuff done. I don't mind, it is a chance to do some interesting stuff, and potentially get noticed. Though frankly I am a bit long in the tooth, for harbouring any great ambitions. Also I continue to come up with ideas to stretch myself, the idea that I pitched in a recent blog, for a staff seminar, will be taking place in April! and I have volunteered to take nightclasses in paralegal studies.

As ever, opportunity never comes in any planned manner, it just all arrives at once, when you are not expecting it. But with this sort of work, sometimes it it just the ability to seem calm and in control that counts, rather than actually doing anything terribly specific. I have been mindful of not working excessive hours, because at the moment I need to be productive, rather than just sitting there doing a lot. So the productive side of my brain gets burnt out after a while. Time to head home.

2 Creativity
as above, after an initial flurry, I have slowed down on the pitching like a maniac, and trying to drive up traffic to my website. Potentially you could easily spend over a day a week on those, and there just has not been the time lately. However I do think that the underlying principles of pitching broadly and keeping track of what happens are sound enough.

Of the initial pitches, the most productive to date seems to be the seminar idea, which has been accepted, and will be taking place. I do feel that my jokes are decent enough, but I've really not found an outlet that might take them yet. I might take a day off at the end of the week to catch up some of this creative stuff.

3 Blogging and web-siting
I suppose it would be easy enough to justify any amount of unproductive trawling around the web as being either research, or making comments in the hope of driving up traffic to your own website.

Accordingly the lack of huge amounts of time ambling the information superhighway probably won't set back civilisation unduly.

I have recognised that it is useful to have permanent links to my individual blogs, just in case I, or anyone else wants to put a link to them somewhere. I have accordingly been doing some of that boring behind the scenes stuff to set up permalinks on my blog. Nothing terribly noticeable, but useful to have.

I have also been a little remiss in blogging, but I do find it a useful way to straighten out my thoughts, and just keep in the habit of writing, so I'm doing a few blog entries this weekend, when there are bound to be other more productive things that I could be doing instead.

In conclusion, that is about that for the moment. I suppose getting somewhere is really about tempering what you want with what you are managing to do, and coming up with a decent compromise somewhere in between.

google ethics

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google analytics and dull productivity blogs

I have been doing some work on my blog, though at time of writing my ISP does not seem to be letting anyone see my updated site. Usually these things just sort themselves out, and generally the tech support people just read from a script and know less than I do, so phoning them is more diversion than useful activity.

Last week I was keen to put some sort of page counter onto my website, but after a little research (five minutes with google and a couple of forums) I simply decided to go for google analytics. There seem to be two relevant google options, webmaster and analytics.

Webmaster - not really sure what it does, and it wants a site map to do most of it. So I decided to pretty much ignore it.

Analytics - this provides a piece of code that you insert into your webpages and then google kindly tracks hits to your website and provides lots of spiffy analysis that you would happily pay money for.

The piece of code is easily inserted in Rapidweaver (by way of explanation - go to the setup button, press the advance tab, and paste the code into the relevant box, alternatively, Rapidweaver is a software application that you can use on an Apple Macintosh computer).

This whole process passed my stringent test for ease of use, not only did I manage to do it, but I managed to do at while watching NCIS at the same time. Clearly this is not heavy duty mental gymnastics we are talking about.

Now that I have the technology to monitor traffic, I have also been reading up on how to boost traffic. Basically quote your webpage address everywhere you can, and update your site. So, I have updated the site to put the blog page as the home page, as it is the one that is updated most often, taken out a page that had some images on it, as my photos are uploaded to Flickr these days, tagged all my blogs again.

I will probably try and keep my blog entries short and snappy, and restricted to a single topic, which should make them more useful to the casual browser of interesting tags, who might not be interested in wading through just everything.

I have also looked at the technorati top 100 blogs. What an incredibly odd selection. Basically if you took out all the computer orientated and productivity orientated, then you would not have much left. Strangely this does not reflect public interest in other forms of media, so I suspect that blogs are still a rather techie persuasion.

Also browsed some of the less obvious productivity blogs, and I am inclined to agree with Merlin Mann (http://www.43folders.com/2008/09/10/time-attention-creative-work) that productivity and lifehacks are getting to be an unproductive distraction rather than something genuinely useful or informative. Certainly browsing some of the productivity blogs and the me too comments, carefully providing links back to their own productivity blogs, felt rather arid. If people find them useful, then good luck to them, but it does need to be done well to bring anything new or worthwhile to the table.

Maybe that explains why technorati no longer seems to track blogs that well, the number of blogs has entered the gazzillions while the quality has taken a nose dive.

Maybe we are just at a time of transition, we know that things are different now, but while we know that we are not in Kansas anymore, we still have not quite figured out where we are.

thinking of new crimes

I suspect that this blog posting, might seem strangely prophetic in a few years time. If you were a really smart hacker, you would seek to make your money from activities that might not even be criminal.

I'll pitch a few scenarios;
google ranking - say you could find a magic piece of code to insert in someone's webpage that automatically pushed it up the rankings, into the top three or four results, the ones that people actually looked at. Maybe you worked in google and put this facility into their code, maybe you analysed successful pages and through brute force found some way of mimicing the sites that they rate highly, maybe you worked out some software hack that created a recursive loop that bumped up prominence through little known features within DSL and ISP.

If you could do that, then you could name your price. Obviously you would not want to flood the market, but the savvy hacker could live very well on such knowledge.

share picking - maybe you could find some way to pick shares, some thing you could track that would give some insight, for example tracking web traffic in advance of published sales figures. Something that gave you an insight, or even just a little advance notice of turnover and profits just that little bit before everyone else knew.

distorting web 2.0 - maybe you could find some form of social marketting on the web, perhaps using cheap overseas labour to post favourable reviews, to boost site traffic, to create a buzz and drive traffic to one site or away from another. Web 2.0 makes us aware of music and books we did not know we wanted, the capacity to channel that where you want must be worth money.


The internet is relatively new, and the rapid monetization of the web is even newer. People, regulators, governments, we really have not yet got our head round the fact that there is an awful lot money to be made in cyberspace, and that there might be ways to do this that we feel are unacceptable.

The pre-monetized internet was largely self policing, and the fact that people might make a living from it, seemed absurd.

But now, there is the scope to use brute force computer analysis, insiders hacking key net infrastructure, or even shed loads of chinese, to make the internet focus its fickle attention the way that we want it to. The web is uniquely vulnerable to this because it is different from other media. It relies on unmoderated opinions, the opinions of people that opt in to give their opinion. Such a model cannot easily be hacked by one person, but as spam shows, with a little technical know how, or cheap labour, it is possible to achieve influence levered way beyond the scope of your initial input.

Is it even possible to regulate such behaviour?
Would policing such behaviour destroy the very accessibility that attracts us?

Maybe it is time that we started to think about how we could police the internet, learning from sites like wikipedia where it does work.

Phillip Schiller's Apple Keynote - so what ?

After a rather soggy walk, with a slightly huffy dog, I sat down with a cup of coffee to watch the latest MacWorld Apple Keynote with Phillip Schiller taking the place of Steve Jobs. If the iPhone is the god phone, then Jobs must be the god CEO.

Of course picking up the baton from Steve is a thankless task, as his keynotes are outstanding. That said, from comments he has made, it is not something that comes easily, even for iCEO Jobs, there is a lot of hard work that goes into these seemingly effortless presentations.

Technically Phillip was fine, the audience looked at little stoney faced throughout, and let's face it, we all knew that there was not another iPhone waiting in the wings. In fact even the sort of stuff the pundits were predicting were small beer, so it is pretty amazing the level of world wide media coverage for a presentation by a single computer company. I certainly don't imagine Dell or Microsoft getting the same sort of coverage.

Of course I already knew roughly what was in the presentation, and without Jobs to edge us from vaguely impressed to feverish hyperbole, the stuff seemed worthy, but a little dull.

So we got, upgrades to iLife, and iWork. There was a new 17inch MacBook, and the one more thing was that iTunes was going DRM free.

On the one hand this does not sound terribly exciting. More functions on a spreadsheet is not really the sort of thing that sets my soul on fire, and longer battery life, zzz. Coming away I did not feel terribly wowed.

On the other hand, the upgrades to iLife look quite useful, I can see the faces recognition being a real asset, I was starting to think that I do need to organise my photos by person a bit more, so that when required I locate mutual friends. The tutorials on Garageband sound like the sort of dodgy Bert Weedon video you could pick up, but just really well done, and effortlessly integrated.

That is the thing with the iLife improvements, they are not the sort of thing that will change your life, but they are the sort of thing you were starting to think might be useful, and they are done in a no brainer/effortless sort of way, when of course we could all think of slightly more cumbersome ways to do it cheaper, but they would be a little too much effort, so we will probably just end up getting the upgrade.

It is interesting that Apple has put the emphasis on creativity and usability, they are encouraging you to learn to play an instrument through Garageband, they are making it easier to share photos with your friends through iPhoto.

The upgrades to iWork seemed quite dry. The standout item for me, was the online sharing of documents. Initially I thought, well why not just use googledocs, and who knows an exclusive band of Mac-Users, such that online collaboration need only entail fellow Mac Users. But the implementation did seem pretty slick, it looked effortless and the sort of no brainer stuff that you could actually get other people to use, and being browser based, computer platform should not be an issue.

So it might be possible to start to shift the world of work to a mixed economy model, where there are some people with Macs, some with PCs, online collaboration through web based tools, some Macs running windows, some linux based netbooks, with always on internet access the glue that sticks it all together.

The new laptop, with a whizzy new battery. Well probably too pricy for me, I prefer a cheap laptop that does not cost as much as a small car. But longer battery life will be handy for folk, and if it will last five years, then the fact that it is not readily replaceable should not be that much of a worry. Who is running about with a five year old laptop these days. I guess with laptops it is always possible to carp at something, this one lacks ports, that one does not let you hot swap batteries, this one is too dear, but let's face it, people buy more laptops than desktops these days. Laptops are entitled to come in all shapes and sizes. That way folk can pick the one that suits them best. Just imagining that there is a single yardstick to measure a laptop against is pretty daft these days. If anything, it is the desktop that can safely come in a small mix of shapes and sizes, while there is a justifiable diversity to the laptops available.

Then the "and finally", DRM free, iTunes, and a ready way of swapping all your existing music onto DRM free. Well I checked mine, and for a little over a tenner, I could switch it all. Not something that worries me greatly, but for a tenner, I'll probably just do it.

So, in the end, I was not terribly blown away. But, I will probably upgrade iLife and iWork, I will probably upgrade my iTunes library, I'll probably have a good look at the online document sharing option. So, in the end, although I was not terribly blown away, I am probably sufficiently impressed to stick my hand in my pocket, and spend a bit more on Apple stuff. Maybe not the price of a whole new computer, but a decent software upgrade that lets me get a little bit more use of out my existing set up. Probably not a bad pitch, for these credit crunched times.

And that is the beauty of where Apple is now, it is not just a computer company, it is not just about hardware, it is not just a software company, it is not just about applications, it is not just a media company, or a retailer. It is not just about working effectively, or high status items to show off, or family computers, or geek computers, or creative stuff. Somehow Apple is very good on the boundaries, the stuff we have not quite thought through, the edges where we kind of sense something useful lurks. That big friendly round apple, I guess you kind of trust it even when it is a little out there.

Technical problem,

Technical Problem,

my website vanished yesterday!

Of course cogitating on things, and a quick check on the forums suggested a perfectly good approach to fixing things.

I had recently upgraded to RapidWeaver 4.2, and there was a slight problem with the download. So either the application file was slightly corrupted, or the document file that includes the website got corrupted when it was upgraded to the new format.

So I downloaded a new version of RapidWeaver 4.2, went into Cyberduck and deleted all the existing files on my website. Went into TimeMachine and pulled out a version of the document file from last week before I upgraded to RapidWeaver 4.2. Uploaded the whole lot again.

On testing, the whole thing seems tickety boo again.

When it comes to technical problems I really do like to work to a scenario of what the problem is, and then try and fix it, rather than the usual tech support approach of working through a short list of solutions, of gradually ascending severity.

However, had my website actually been terminally corrupted, I suppose I would just have set about creating a whole new one. To be honest I am getting a little bored with the current template. It has gained a fair bit of customisation, so it is now probably more a case of starting over again, rather than mild tweaks. I am starting to feel a little minded to create a whole new website from scratch. As ever with technical solutions, make do and mend works fine for a while, but more root and branch change is required from time to time.

Why I have not bought Spore!


I was pretty excited about the Spore Creature maker, although truth be told I only made one creature. So I was pretty keen to get Spore when it did come out, my daughters certainly enjoy Sims so this seemed like something that they would also enjoy.

However on the day of the big release, it was not available for Mac, so that put me off for a day or two. Then the links to get a Mac version were down, and it was pretty opaque what the Mac system specifications were. There were a few good reviews on the US Apple store site, one bad one on the UK Apple Store. The reviews of Amazon were phenominally negative.
Wikipedia shed a little more light on things, and checking out some personal blogs via Technorati a bit more.

All in all an interesting story was unfolding, the professional reviews were overwhelmingly positive, a few caveats, maybe not historic, but certainly momentous. The wisdom of crowds was telling a different story
DRM DRM DRM
limited gameplay in some levels
not a lot to do throughout
certainly no classic
only three installations, and immense problems getting any tech support
bugs when playing
buggy installation
won't run unless on an admin account (apple - big deal for me, all users have separate accounts, we run three computers, and I run the only admin account myself)
still fuzzy what machines would actually run the software

The game has been in development forever, and being hyped up for longer, so it can hardly be a case of rushing it out. The more likely explanation seems to be that the game is a shell, albeit a buggy one, that will allow for further expansion packs. An undersea level that was in promos has not been released, and it looks like EA do acknowledge that expansion packs will come out.

After the slating that Apple and Microsoft have had for releasing buggy software, it looks like the media are giving EA games a free ride here, they have released software that is buggy, and difficult to install, providing dismal tech support, but the traditional media have given them glowing reviews, and fail to pick up on issues like all the negative Amazon reviews disappearing through a technical glitch. It would appear that traditional media, and established web media want the same old rules of hype it high, stack it high, sell it in shedloads, to apply. The people that actually shell out money are trying to subvert this message, there is a degree of hysteria, I am not sure that the DRM is that big a deal, or the Amazon glitch, but I am equally certain that this looks to be a shockingly buggy and problematic piece of software that has not attracted the glowing reviews over gameplay that would encourage me to take a chance with it.

I will just let this one run for a while, as they say, wait till it turns up in the bargain bins, or they manage to iron out the bugs.

Had this been Apple or Microsoft it would have been front page news, poor products are hard to forgive, but the games industry still seems to get away with releasing stuff that is bright and shiny, without getting probed on the substance. I hope that we are entering a new world, where companies need to impress lots of vocal customers, and not just a few privileged media folk. On recent performance the average Joes seem to have been much more astute here, and it is their advice that I will be following.