Striking a bum note

October 30th, 2005

John (not doing so) in his Observer column about the record industry.

In the end, of course, rationality will prevail, because the record industry will run out of money to pay for lawyers long before kids get bored with file-sharing.

More on this subject, too, in the latest TWiT podcast, which has Larry Lessig as a guest.

Web Bloopers

October 30th, 2005

BBSpot specialises in satire about politics, technology, current affairs. It’s of very mixed quality. What can be quite good, though, is the BBloopers section, a place for people to post amusing screenshots captured from web pages.

See this one, for example – note the area highlighted in red – or this one.

Some traditional newspapers have a large front-page photo and a large front-page headline, often not from the same story, and I’m often bemused by the juxtaposition. I guess such things will get much more common as we get more and more electronic syndication.

Some bloopers, on the other hand, just result from an over-enthusiastic spell-checker, one suspects.

Why eBay bought Skype

October 28th, 2005

Joel Spolsky’s “highly irresponsible, off-the-cuff theory“.

Thanks to Frazer for the link.

Apple goes into jewellery

October 26th, 2005

iDo in white
For all you dedicated Apple fans who want all your accessories to match your veil, iPod and those white headphones on your wedding day, Apple has today announced the iDo wedding ring – the essential choice for any young person getting married in the coming months.

Also available in black, for those who like to Think Different, the iDo is carefully sculptured for maximum comfort.

iDo in black
“We’re seeing Apple styling becoming an important part of every aspect of people’s lives”, said an Apple spokesman. “Why should you give that up when you get married?”. All models can be engraved with a special message in Apple’s traditional Garamond font.

Apple has refused to confirm reports that, in an attempt to encourage more ‘switchers’ in the run up to Valentine’s Day, it will soon be introducing an entry-level engagement ring named the iWill.

Well, OK – I made all of that up. I’m actually just learning how to use the amazing Open Source 3D modelling package Blender. You can read about Blender’s history here. It’s quite an amazing package, especially since the Mac version of the application is only 12 MB! But nobody should expect to learn it overnight. If you thought Photoshop was complicated…


REST in piece

October 26th, 2005

Regular readers now know all about AJAX, Django and Rails, so it’s time to mention another piece of Internet jargon that’s doing the rounds at the moment, and that’s REST, which is short for REpresentational State Transfer. It’s a model of how the web works, how it was designed, and why we should try, where possible, to build web-based services in a manner that conforms to that basic design instead of going against its grain.

It originated in Roy Fielding’s PhD thesis, but unless you’re very keen, that’s not the easiest way to learn about it.

The best starting point might be Ryan Tomayko’s piece “How I explained REST to my wife“. If you want a little more technical detail after that, you might try this article and, of course, the entry in the ever-wonderful Wikipedia .

Text-by-voice

October 26th, 2005

Now here’s something I didn’t know…

You can send a text message to a landline. Well, here in the UK, I can, at least; it may just be a service from my provider. But if I send an SMS to my home number, the system calls me up and reads it to me using quite a good synthesized voice. It costs the same as a regular text message. Quite useful if you’re travelling…

Maybe I’m a bit slow and everybody else knows this already. But thanks to Tom Robson for pointing it out!

Bemused by Microsoft

October 25th, 2005

It may seem strange, given that I am so immersed in the IT world, that this morning I did (I think) my first ever installation of Windows XP. I have sat in front of XP machines before, of course, but I switched to the Mac in the Windows 2000 era and have never had to install XP from scratch on a PC. Until today.

Actually, today was an experiment – I have a copy of VirtualPC for the Mac and was interested to try it out. I’ve never had a need for Windows myself, but sometimes it can be useful, if I’m trying to help somebody on the phone, to duplicate their actions on my local screen. This software lets you install Windows within a ‘virtual machine’ on your Mac and run a complete version of Windows and any Windows-only software. It seems to work pretty well, albeit slowly.

But what amused me was the very first thing that popped up on my screen after I installed a nice clean, fresh copy of Windows XP on my Mac.

Your computer might be at risk

If I had just paid £170 to upgrade my PC to Windows XP Pro, I’m sure I’d be pleased to see that message. If you ‘Click this balloon to fix this problem’ it takes you to a site which lists the places you can spend more money to buy antivirus software. To me, that’s like buying a shiny new car, sliding happily into the soft leather driver’s seat and discovering a note on the steering wheel: “A helpful tip from Mercedes: The locks on your doors may not work. Here’s a list of local garages who can repair them for you.”

The sad thing is, they’re right. And I was grateful for the reminder. I need to make sure that the virtual Windows machine only has very limited access to the rest of my Mac files…

Tales from the Green Valley

October 23rd, 2005

We watch very little TV these days, especially since we signed up for a Netflix-type account with ScreenSelect, but one series we’ve really been enjoying is Tales from the Green Valley on BBC 2.

Five people were chosen to live in a cottage on the Welsh border and run it as a working farm, as it would have been in 1620. This may sound a lot like the 1940s’ House programmes which were popular a little while ago, but it’s superior for two reasons:

  • The participants are historians and archaeologists who know their stuff and have thrown themselves into this enthusiastically, rather than members of the general public who are dropped into the ‘past’ to see how they can cope.
  • The experiment ran for an entire year rather than just a few weeks. Each programme in the 12-part series looks at life in a different month, so you see the whole sequence of the seasons and how they affect every aspect of life.

It’s very well done, and I recommend it highly, but it’s a bit late because there are only a couple of episodes left. Watch out for re-runs, though, and if anyone you know enjoyed 1900s House or 1940s House, they’ll love this and learn a lot more. It’ll be out on video just after Christmas.

More info here.

Are you a slide rule enthusiast?

October 18th, 2005

My friend Andrew asked today if I knew anywhere in Cambridge where he could buy a slide rule. I couldn’t help him (though I do own a rather nice one).

But I did stumble across the website of the UK Slide Rule Circle, an ‘informal group of slide rule enthusiasts’.

If you consider yourself a slide rule enthusiast – and who, in their innermost thoughts, does not? – then this might be just what you’re looking for…

Bridge-building

October 17th, 2005

My friend Laura has been building bridges over the Cam. Quite pretty ones. Pictures on her blog.