Monday, June 14, 2010

Amongst all the usually excessive hype about the launch of any new Apple product (this time the iPhone4), to me its new display (which does sound stunning) is really the only big deal. With that in mind e-books are being mentioned again as the new future of publishing (which it isn't) and the savour of traditional media (which it also isn't), but one area that never gets discussed is the reality of sitting every night reading a book on one of these devices.

Apart from the obvious masochistic nature of those who wish to scroll around a tiny display, there are problems of holding something up that is heavy but beyond that the issue of increasing eyestrain and even possible problems with sleep issues (

As someone who spends a vast majority of their day in front of a screen I find it a relief to relax with a book at bedtime, to read the newspaper on the weekend and to get my monthly subscriptions to both Wired UK and Wired US. I can't see that changing until we have truly electronic paper that looks and feels like regular paper.

The only thing that I wish I could do with print magazines is save and tag articles for future reference, but that need is not outweighed by just wanting to give my eyes a break every once in a while.

Friday, January 26, 2007


So there was an interesting article recently in Wired magazine about the phenomenon of Lonelygirl15 on YouTube, which talks about the popularity of these fake 3 min YouTube spots.

The interesting thing about LG15 is that when the hoopla started last year for a while I watched a few of these and was intrigued about what was going on simply because I thought it WAS real, finding out it was fake, and I lost interest immediately.

The Wired article made me think a little more about this kind of content, why was it interesting when I thought it was real, and not when I knew that it was fake? The bottom line is that there is no real story, the character is really quite one dimensional and amateur, and as dramatic art its a non-starter. When you think something is real that matters somewhat less because you think you are watching real life, whereas when its fake "real drama" you expect and you need more.

There seems to be some belief in the article and among the creators of LG15 that this is where TV is going, the thing about it going down this kind of route is where are the residuals going to be be? Who will watch LG15 in 10 years time, who will buy the DVD's or DRM protected downloads? This kind of crap will affect the broadcast business just like MBA manufactured pop bands are killing the lucrative music back catalog market built on the back of bands like Zeppelin, the Stones and Elvis.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I remember my father

Today is Remembrance Day to pay tribute to all those who fought and died in the various World Wars as well as those involved in present day conflicts.

My father would've been 85 if he were still alive, alas he only made 73. But its amazing considering that he spent three and half years as a Japanese POW that he made it that far at all. He buried many of his friends with his own hands during those years and the affects lingered on well into his old age.

One of the greatest gifts my father gave me was that of tolerance. While he had a hatred for the Japanese that he could never shake, he never once tried to instill this hatred into me, in fact he talked very little about what happened to him during his imprisonment. Just the odd awful fragment of stories such as one about a prisoner being beheaded in front of him for the crime of stealing food.

I strongly believe that if more people followed my fathers lead and didn't pass down what are sometimes centuries old hatreds onto their children and grandchildren, we wouldn't have so many intractable conflicts such as those in the Middle East.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Safety during hand to gland combat

So in my Sunday newspaper (The Observer) today there is an article about fertility clinics and in particular the 'mens room' where they get to provide a sample of the appropriate liquid.

What caught my eye, is a picture taken inside one of the rooms that shows a large orange toggle with a notice next to it proclaiming:

Only use this cord in the case of an emergency please.

So what exactly would constitute an emergency while you are engaged in such an activity? Possibly a hand slipping off the end and punching yourself in the nose, or perhaps 'shooting' yourself in the eye at the end of it or maybe trapping a key part of your anatomy in your zip ala Something About Mary.

I do know that nothing short of being in imminent mortal danger would encourage me to pull that toggle and suffer the humiliation of having a crash medical team descend on the room to find me with my trousers around my ankles, member in one hand and plastic cup in the other.
And the Beta goes on...

While I am big fan of some of Google's products such as Earth and Gmail, and I am fairly certain that they probably possess one of the largest concentrations of software talent to be found anywhere on earth, I have to take issue with one contribution they have made to the world of software development, namely the 'never ending' Beta.

In my 17+ years of professional experience of software development experience I had always been led to believe that there was a simple straightforward and common sense progression in the life of a software 'release'. First you have an Alpha version where you are still flushing out a final feature list, then you release the Beta version, feature complete but still buggy. You might then follow that with RC's or Release Candidates until you have the bugs down to a sufficient point that you are happy to ship the product.

Google have screwed this all up.

A case in point, at aSmallWorld (the company I work for) earlier in the year we replaced a search feature in our busiest area (the forums) with a dedicated search engine called Sphinx. Sphinx is a great product (I cant say enough good things about Andew
Aksyonoff the developer who has been a great help) but at the time it was in 'Beta'. Of course this lead to discussions about whether we should use a 'Beta' product for such a key feature of the site. That meant that I had to understand what being Beta meant for Sphinx, a question that pre-Google would never have needed to be asked.

I now use Zooomr Beta, Gmail Beta and I am writing this blog on Blogger Beta.

So my message to Google and all you Beta lovers is at some point you have to get of the metaphorical 'pot' and ship your product. Either that or redefine what Alpha means....

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Advice for iPod addicts

I will preface this by saying I am a huge music fan, I play music constantly in my car and while I work, I dont however use an iPod and refuse to buy one, and heres why:

- If you live in a large city (or even if you don't) you are making yourself an easy target for muggers, thieves, and even sexual assault (especially if you are lady). Being wrapped up in your own little world of the iPod does not allow you to be fully aware of your surroundings and goes against one of the most basic tenets of self-defence
- You are going to suffer hearing loss in 20/30 years time. Hearing loss takes many years for its effect to be apparent and playing music directly into the ears especially at high-volume has been proven to be extremely damaging. If you have to wear ear-phones get traditional ones preferably of the 'open-ear' type.
- If your a guy trying to pick up women (or vice-versa) you are making a difficult proposition even harder. Wearing an iPod while you might think it labels you as 'cool' and 'current' it also labels you as someone who wants to be left alone, in fact trying to have even a normal discussion (as I tried to recently) with someone in a gym is impossible when every 5 secs they have to take their earphones out.

One final thought. If you bought your iPod to make a statement about your individuality, now that we are reaching the end of 2006, and Apple have sold almost 40 million iPods how individual are you REALLY being....

Monday, October 23, 2006

Release the inner artist

I have had many discussions with friends about the merits of websites like Flickr, Zooomr(the one I use), YouTube, and software such as Photoshop and GarageBand or Sony ACID if you are Windooze person.

The argument is always about whether anything good comes out of putting the power of these tools into the average persons hands. Has art improved? Has society benefited?

If you look for example at the majority of pictures posted on Flickr or Zooomr, most are poorly taken. If you look at a lot of the videos on YouTube they often barely make the grade as entertainment, let alone art.

However I am very much for the personal artistic freedom these tools give us. If you think about it, since the middle-ages or possibly earlier anyone could pickup a brush or pencil and create a work of art, so its been open to everyone and yet we have still managed to have the likes of DaVinci and Monet. Now if back then painting required the equivalent of what is today a laptop, perhaps we would not have seen their likes since a lot of great artists were horribly poor during their lifetime.

Today you can buy a laptop and put a few hundreds pounds worth of software on it and create music that 20 years ago would've taken a multi-million pound professional studio.

And music is wherein lies the interesting thing about this development. In the past being noticed artistically was always a difficult and time consuming if not expensive process, which often required going through 'gatekeepers' such as record companies to get noticed, and we all know how much record companies care about quality vs the bottom line. Now it doesn't have to be.

Is that a bad thing?

In my opinion, no. Its really just the democratization of art.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I am looking a little 'puffy' this morning?

Its a given that fashion is a cyclical industry and sooner or later those horrible flares/platform shoes/sweater dresses/leg warmers that you wore in the 60's/70's or 80's will come around again. This morning however I discovered that a look that hadn't been in fashion since probably the 1700's has disturbingly crept into some idiot designers catalogue, namely the ruffled(puffy) shirt.

As my girlfriend pointed out, a lot of mens designer wear that she sees in magazines these days looks incredibly 'gay' on the models that wear them, but nothing in my mind looks quite as gay as a ruffled shirt. The ONLY people who are going to carry this one off are either complete flamers, ageing Adam Ant fans or Errol Flyn were he still alive. Ironically enough the designer is one Alexander McQueen and if you really want one you can buy it here at Bergdorf Goodman.

There was a great episode of Seinfeld once called 'The Puffy Shirt' which really explains it all, there was also another called 'The Outing' and I would like to point out that while I consider the ruffled shirt to be very gay there really isn't anything wrong with that.