Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Hello? Hello? Mothership, please come in?

"Hello? Hello? Mothership, please come in? Whattinhellwasthat! Shit! Shit!"

"Aw hell! Another cheap-ass Skoda Planetary Drive exploded. How the hell are we supposed to get home now? Tell ya what, aim for - uh - *that* system there in that Milky Way looking galaxy, yeah, the one about 9 billion lightyears away. We can camp there until help arrives, there's a good Z-cch!-Tzzpian. Yeah. Of course it's uninhabited."

If Only Mr Magoo had had - this:

This is pretty much the logical development for an ageing population that don't want to give up their independence and freedom despite the fading reflexes/faculties. My father still drove up until just short of his 80th birthday, and he remained a good driver up until a major stroke prevented the possibility of further driving. My stepmother on the other hand, would have forgotten she was in the driver's seat except for the sound of screaming passengers... (Actually, and very sensibly, she didn't drive anyway. Dad was Designated Driver 99% of the time.)

But cars are already smart enough to sense anmals and pedestrians on the road, detect white lines, avoid kerbs and other vehicles, and stay within GPS-defined speed zones. And, of course, they can find their way to the shops and back. The only thing that prevents self-driving cars is the innate human distrust of surrendering control over our lives to anyone or anything else. Same thing that prevents us liking driverless trains and pilotless airplanes. (Both of which are now possible, too. )

So I hope this technology is available in cars soon, because I like the idea of reading a book while the car takes me to the capuccino strip or wherever...

Monday, 17 December 2007

Shamefaced Post. *blush*

I've been under a lot of time squeeze despite being pretty much a man of leisure. There have also been a few medical problems, and of course the normal things don't stop piling up.

I've written a short story about life in Second Life, within SL, and it's available for free in there but I'm trying to keep it as in "insider" book and am writing the second one. While it's planned that each book is only a bit longer than a short story and just under novella length, that too still takes time and resources. If you want a copy, contact Teddlesruss Vollmar in-world and get a free copy to read.

Went for a beaut holiday in the rainforest-like jungle of tingle trees around Pemberton and Walpole, stayed at a cabins in the forest, and had a wonderful, if off-grid, time. Lots of photos on Flickr including the magpie feeding - as blurred as it is that's my favourite shot of the holiday.

Check the pictures, we had an awesome couple of days, and went as far SE as Albany, which is for all the world like an Australianised Greek island fishing town, sprawling up the hill as it does. The Treetop Walk over the valley in the tingle forest is a must-do, as are visits to the Meadery to sample some honey products including honey mead, and the towns along the way all have spots that are charming and different, from the organic produce store in Denmark to the dinosaur museum and bird sanctuary outside Walpole.

Well worth your time to go down and stay in the lower SW for a few days - at rates as low as $79 for a two bedroom cabin or $99 for a three bedroom, you can enjoy a few days here, buy local produce (like the excellent beef and fresher than fresh vegetables) and prepare it in the kitchen of your cabin. Next time, I'm taking fishing gear too, because apparently there's nice local fish to be had at the beaches, which are no more than 10km off the highway most places.

Internet? Where we were was so isolated that there wasn't a phone in sight, perfect for a complete unplug - but that said, there are hotspots around, and many cabin rental places come with some form of Internet connectivity. If you must... We went to Albany and I sat in an Internet cafe for 40 minutes checking my email and IM, and that was quite enough...

Anyhow - that's why I've been slack with the blog, and what's more I can't promise that the situation will improve. But I can promise that I'll try, and that's what I'll do.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Builder Reflex

Is it only me that instantly thought "Selext Textures" when seeing this picture from a DealsDirect catalogue?
Meh. Probably just me...

Friday, 9 November 2007


I don't know how many remember, but I started a blog on the subject of augmentation and cyborging back in the early 2000's - I don't know how I missed this article (and just now found this one) but it's precisely what I was saying, only years later... Okay - the original blog was on Arachnet and is now closed but I kept the idea alive, and seeing stuff like that makes me want to start it up again.

Basically, the central theme I am trying to work out is - how much of you can be replaced before you're no longer you? At what point does that change occur? Is there such a point? Or is it, as for every other philosophical question, just a matter of drawing your own line?

I mean, I use chemicals on a regular basis to regulate certain body functions like acid reflux control and sleeping pills. I wear mechanical devices to augment and correct my myopia, (glasses for short-sightedness,) and have had mechanical intervention (metal pin) to correct broken/defective body parts. (A snapped-off big toe, in this case. Don't ask... %)

Am I a human being who's been infused with metal and chemicals, or am I a cyborg with some human parts left? And before we get into mind/soul/brain that separates us from machines and animals, bear in mind that there are several sides to that coin that don't involve any inflated notion of "soul" and "better" or "worse" than animals/machines...

A case in point - when I started TEdADYNE Systems Blog, I posited that because nanotechnology is so incredibly small, a machine composed of nanoparticles could be built inside your normal body and only increase your mass slightly, and infact hardly be noticeable by you.

Such a network could be used to augment yur body and make it much better. It could also be used to map every particle of what makes you you, and thus paves the way for downloading your entire being to storage devices which, incidentally, are fast approaching more than enough capacity.

So then, if you get a backup of yourself made, and that backup gets run on a simulator or on some mechanical body, which one is the real you?

See, we still haven't got the hang of dealing with Internet malfeasance, and we're already on the verge of a far more slippery slope... Someone had to open a discussion, and I'd love to hear your comments on this.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Musical Tesla Coils Play Super Mario Theme

It's a pretty strange world, when the theme to a video game is one of the most well-known melodies of the day; Even more strange, and more magical, is that we harness lightning to play that tune for us...

Monday, 5 November 2007

The Most Bastard Telemarketing Evah!

Just thought I'd share. (Okay, vent!)

Phone rang, I picked it up, silence at the other end. Okay, it's one of those autodiallers that waits for a sound then transfers you to the operator.

"HELLO?" and I heard the click, braced myself for yelg at another operator about Do Not Call lists, and got:

"Hi. We have a great opportunity for you, unfortunately all our operators are busy, would you please hold" from some automated IVR system.

Now I'm supposed to wait online for them to spam me? Dirty dirty dirty crap tricks. I half wish I'd hung on just so I could abuse human operator...

And now I have a problem, because this could also qualify as bastard marketing...

Saturday, 3 November 2007

How To Steampunk

I think the Victorian Era of Invention was what really got me started into technology. Developed by HG Wells and his contemporaries into fantastic machines with filigree and rosewood, brass and copper, glass and crystal. And finally distilled by Walt Disney's inventor character Gyro Gearloose into the comics that I read before I read Wells.

So seeing people make high tech with love and Victorian craftmanship gives me warm fuzzy feelings. Steampunk is the name, and the most recent example of that craft is this.

Mind you, the guy that made this says in the video that the Victorian Era was the last time someone straight out of High School had knowledge of all the technology of their time, and since then it's become more complicated and difficult to master all the technologies in use - but I have to disagree. So what if he can't build the electronics of a keyboard? The premade electronics are a raw material just like sheet brass and fine oak...

Friday, 2 November 2007

A-Mart Sports, Albany Highway, Cannington

They have to be the nicest and most helpful people ever. Yesterday, I went to find a sports water bottle small enough to fit in the scooter's cup holder, and I was impressed - despite this bein such a minor purchase, the staff were helpful and very kind, there should be more stores like this!

So if you need fishing and sporting gear, and you want to enjoy the experience, try this place. No, there is no payment involved here, I just genuinely found the whole experience to be great!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Another SL Junkie is Born

I've observed SL through the eyes of teddlesruss Vollmar for a few weeks now, and listened in on a live music performance by Starr Singer, and I'm convinced there's things to be done in SL.

For a start, there are things that can be done, problems that need solving, stuff I'd love to mess with. For a second, there is the fun of building things out of basic shapes and textures, and scripting them to perform functions. Not always useful functions, mind you, (I mean, who really needs a working penis in SL?) but functions useful to SL'ers. And where there are things to figure out, that's where I like to be...

Since my dress sense is lousy, my sense of hair styling somewhat similar, and my prudishness quotient for some reason bridles at building working genitalia, I will give some "useful" ideas a go in SL and see if I can build them. I have at least one idea, but need to make sure I can do it with SL technology.

But you kow the worst thing about SL? It's insidious. I catch myself walking around a shopping mall and I want to jump up and fly to get a better view. When I have to go across town, the first thing I think of is teleport, then realise that our primitive little society is still not quite up to that standard of technology and get all sad.

I see people walking around and expect to see little bling bling lights at their ankles and wrists, and I catch myself casting sidelong glances at shrubs and plants in gardens - was that there a minute ago? Did it just rez up as I turned away?

And then I notice that, unlike SL, the plants and people have blemishes. And aren't all the most drop-dead gorgeous hunks, or furry fantasy hugbunnies, and the world turns the right way up again. But I do miss teleport....

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Mentations - One Hour, Wasted.

About six months ago I came across and installed a piece of software called "Mentations." I won't give you a link to it, it doesn't deserve it. Read on first, see if you think it's worth the hassle - and then I'll provide the link...

What it is, is hard to say. After all, I've only installed it twice now and life's too short for something as ridiculous as this. From what little I've seen, (more on why I've only seen so little in a moment,) it's an RSS reader that does some attention management for you, and adds a few custom channels for "offers" ond other claptrap.

But people - what would you say to an RSS reader that takes you an hour to start up? Hardly worth it when Particls and similar software do a similar job and install in minutes and are up and running in under 10.

First time I installed Mentations was on my old laptop. I noted that it took longer to install than I took to make and eat dinner that evening, then ran the installed software and waited. And waited, and waited... Once an interface of any kind loaded, I noticed that everything had crawled to a halt including the software itself, and despite waiting an hour, stayed that way until I rebooted. I contacted the maker of Mentations and was told that it was my laptop. So I uninstalled and went about my normal business. Until I got this new laptop...

Now sporting a dual core Pentium 1.86Ghz CPU and 512Mb of RAM, I figured this machine jsut had to have more grunt than the old PIII-600Mhz 256Mb lappie - and so I installed the latest Mentations software. Here's my experience, I've left my notebook observations exactly as I wrote them at the time, to convey some sense of how ridiculous this has all been:

15:22 started installation of mentations.
15:52 stopped thrashing hdd and seemed to be loaded. (alhough title bar still says status 33%. F***ing pile of steaming dog turd.)
15:56 clicked "finish" on "preferences" which is actually "profile" and then waited until
15:59 for Turdations to restart the interface. For no reason actually, as there is NOTHING in preferences related to the interface.
16:02 Mental Retard uninstalled again but hdd still thrashing until1
6:12 so it was still background doing stuff but I'd had enough and rebooted the machine at that time.
16:21 after not letting the machine shut down until the uninstaller had run it's course, I have my machine back - after a WHOLE HOUR.

This bloated piece of crap is just an RSS reader for chrissakes! I tried running it on my old laptop and the developer told me it was running like a total dog because of the machine, and I believed them. Now I'm running it on a dual core Pentium 1.86Ghz with half a meg of RAM and it's exactly the same - so can you spell "useless programmers" children?

This is without a doubt the single most useless bloated resource wasting POS I've ever installed. The people that make it should not be let loose with a f***ing shovel let alone a programming tool. It's total bit-bucket-fodder folks! Just the shittest piece of shit ever...

So that's the lowdown. Go to if you want to totally waste a whole hour for something Google Reader can do with one mouse-click. But otherwise, avoid this piece of bloat like the plague and go get Particls or something...

Look - the installation on the new laptop took around four to six minutes, then the software itself when I started it took forever and in fact never reached fully loaded state. If it had been this doggy on just the old machine I would have called it a fluke interaction between that machine and the software- but it's done this on two machines with two different Windows OS's running so I can pretty much say the software (if I can dignify something so ostentatious and full of puffery with that name) is at fault.

Besides the molasses-speed issue, here are a few more: "Perferences" is actually your profile information. But changing it still needs a slow and lengthy restart of the UI. That is pure bad useability and even worse programming. Then too - this piece of software has nothing to do with things maritime, so why label the menu for sources (from what I can gather, anyway - it failed totally to do anything for me when I tried it) with the term "helm?" Unless they mean the Enormous Foam Helm Of Stupidity rather than the control position for ship steerage, that is. What does a helm have to do with an RSS reader? Sheesh. Pretentious prat.

And the other menu choices are all equally laughable - there is nowhere you can change the window size, and it automatically picks a size which is just short of full screen so that it covers the taskbar and start button and you have to minimise it to attend to anything else. As I said, if this is supposed to be attention management software then it fails miserably, because you can't just leave it in a normal window and go about your daily work, it demands ALL you attention, and all the attention of all your CPU and all your RAM, too. Really crap idea.

They can say it's using the machine's resources to maximum performance all they like, but I know a resource-hungry pile of steamin droppings when I see one, and I wasted an hour on one this afternoon.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Braindump Download

Roundup of stray thoughts that need downloading, because my branium is full:

Wouldn't it have been appropriate if the imans and mourners at Crazy John's funeral had conducted the whole service by txt? (I notice that The Empire never sleeps and the ads are still being pumped onto TV, so I feel that my comment is in no worse taste...)

Given the huge plumes of smoke, is it now fair to refer to Arnie's state as the start of a new Ignited Nations? "Welcome to Cullyfoarnya - please don't smoke here!"

Promising to keep interest rates at a record low and then having record interest rate rises in less than a year - I bet all those people that voted Liberal last time didn't see THAT coming. Buggah...

Speaking of reversals - how's the Vatican finally absolving the Knights Templar? At least the RC Church can say "sorry" - pity the Lowly Worm still can't. Maybe in 700 years the Liberal Manifesto will be made public too...

Friday, 19 October 2007

Attention Outsourcing

Lockergnome reports that they find using a GPS is turning them into a zombie, driving mindlessly following the "turn left in 400 metres" voice in their cab. The writer theorises that such devices are making us dumb. But hang on - are they?

I've used "attention outsourcing" devices for as long as they've been around. My main focus in getting into computers has been to make the computer do my routine brainwork for me. My first atention outsourcing device that made a huge difference to me was a word processing typewriter. It allowed me to set up pages of text without having to worry about sheets of paper and white ink, and make multiple copies without having to toddle to the chemist to use the photocopy machine.

Well, okay I'd had home computers before that but they were used as learning and game machines, because back then if you needed some of your attention material looked after by something else, you had to write the software and build the hardware first, so the nett gain was pretty much negative...

That changed once PCs came along and the rich vein of open source and freeware software came along. Now I could run a calendar and have my appointments notified. One less thing to worry about. Things got better when Outlook came along, despite everything being such a bloated piece of beyatchware, because not only could I now have appointments notified, I could sync that with a PDA and take it with me!

Life only got better when Google Calendar came along, now I could get stuff direct to my mobile by SMS, and also I could stop worrying about where to keep my documents and store them on Google Docs. And Google Reader took over where my Abilon RSS reader left off, so now I didn't have to comb websites any more. Even better, Particls came along and now manages just about anything with a feed URL for me.

So now my time is not occupied with hunting down weather and news daily, I have my appointments remembered for me and brought to my attention wherever I am, my GPS unit and Google Maps with White Pages find me my way around, and I have free time for writing posts like this...

Each time we allow a piece of technology to take over one of our mundane tasks, be it "attention" or "lawnmowing" or "carpet cleaning" we are becoming a different creature than our ancestors.

But we've been doing it all of human history. We made our first huge leap forward when we outsourced "killing things" from our nails and teeth to rocks used as bludgeons. We refined that particular technology from random rocks and tree limbs to high-tech (for the time and the use they were put to) axes and spears and arrows, and our species increased and thrived.

We outsourced "not freezing to death" to accidental fires, then deliberate fires, then to animla skins, and nowadays we have outsourced "not freezing to death" to the point where we can move about the freezing blackness of space.

So I think this is a natural progression. The current children generation will dimly remember Mum or Dad using a thing called a "vacuum cleaner" but in their self-cleaning apartments with Roombas it will not make much sense to them that we once did all that by hand and lost so much precious time doing it...

Where Are They Now? Pope John Paul.

Honestly, doesn't this send a mixed message? Where precisely is Karol Wojtyla now? Maybe if I was Vatican denizen I wouldn't be so quick to comment at all, and arrange to have this picture and story suppressed a bit more...

Skynet Became Aware One Cannon At A Time

If you had a semi-autonomous anti-aircraft cannon, okay? And you knew that it was prone to doing weird shit, right? (See halfway down, they tried to tie one of these cannons down in development/testing, to prevent them going haywire on the testers.)

Wouldn't you, like, try and get those glitches out of the system before you sold them to people? And wouldn't you, like, (considering it's an anti-aircraft cannon and all,) make it impossible for the barrels to depress below the horizon?

Dunno, maybe it's just me being picky and fussy and everything but I just reckon maybe SANDF is due their money back, and a parcel of extra money to cover the legal costs for the soldiers killed and injured. But maybe that's just me...

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Who's Fishing For More Of Our Dollars?

Here's a story on the price of fish. Which is a good introduction to scam artistry, ripping us off, and justifying a price hike for not much reason at all.

Summary "dwindling supplies of fish" and "increasing demand" are going to result in increases of "up to 50% in the coming weeks." That is fishmongerspeak for "everyone else is making 500% why can't I?"

We have the same "increasing demand" every year. And stocks are not "dwindling" they are being sold out by the government not watching foreign incursion, and by the fishmongers themselves selling to overseas instead of locally, and by fishermen who don't actually want to fish, just collect money.

Blaming "the metropolitan closure to commercial fishermen" of fishing zones just means that the sharks are now being caught further out to sea, and if the price remained the same then the fish would finally have reached a fair price. Two month bans would not be necessary if it wasn't for an overseas hunger for shark which is being slaked at our expense.

And for my money, I notice that we are still importing fish from everywhere else, at the same prices, but expect that to change too as everyone gets the extortion bug. Consider buying a $20 all-in-one fishing kit from Wollies or some sporting store and go spend a lazy afternoon sometime and stock up your own freezer... %)

Thursday, 4 October 2007

One Quick Footy Insight

This really is a quick flash. Watching sport roundup on the news - I'm not into sport at all but I like to keep at least a basic picture of what's going on - and suddenly the thing that's apparently been subconsciously niggling me popped to the surface:

What I will remember 2007 for is the number of football players of various codes, who have injuries which have them down and out for the count, sometimes to the point of having to retire. And then my second flash of understanding:

This is happening more this year, not because the players concerned are clumsy or weak or inept - this is happening because over the last few years, football hasn't been played so much to win the game as to win the game by inflicting the maximum harm on opposing players.

Somewhere along the line, our football teams stopped playing football to win at football and started playing to maim and injure. And concurrently with that, we're seeing a spike in savage unprovoked bashing attacks on our streets and in home invasions.

Last time I heard of that kind of behaviour was an experiment done some 20 - 30 years ago with a colony of rats. They were given plenty of food and water, but crowded into a limited space, and left to breed. Within a few generations, apparently they started "mobbing" to death random rats, mother rats would abandon litters and go off to mate again right away, and all of the rats exhibited antisocial, even sociopathic behaviour.


Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Amusing NASA Slogan Contest

Go here for a chuckle - I thought "Houston, better make that a double" was more worthy of a mention but that's just me, I thought the mime jokes after MM's passing were funny, too.

Monday, 1 October 2007

QLD, Vic, Borders Closed! Australia Splits Into Separate Worlds!

I'm wondering now. If someone enters Australia via Fremantle and becomes an Australian citizen here, will they have to take the test before they are allowed into Queensland and Victoria? Is this a rational way for States to act, when Immigration is really a Federal issue that needs to be adressed uniformly? Or are we busy building mini banana republics within Australia again? Shades of Joh Bjelke!

Hell - I just realised - I came to Australia in 1964 - I won't be allowed into QLD or VIC unless I sit the test, too! Are we seeing how basically stupid and unfair this is? When will State Premiers stop turning their states into jokes? (Including your Big Green Erection Mr Court Jr, yeah you, you total tosser... How many places on earth have a friggen belltower without bells in it?)

But back to my basic question - does this make sense to anyone? Me either... Okay okay I understand that eventually all the States will have these laws. But this introduction in a State here and a State there is all a bit too haphazard and random for me, I like a consistent Government don't you? And again, not one of the far too esteemed members and actuaries ever stop to think how hickified and mentally deficient this makes us look to others overseas.

We introduce an Immigration Test in two States but have normal immigration requirements in the rest, making the Test so easy to circumvent that everyone's laughing behind their hands at that. We then show that we don't even have a handle on our internal politics by sending negotiating teams backed by military and police into our rural and outback areas to "control" our native population. And we then dig up as much dirt on them as we can, pedophilia and alcoholism, so we can point and in our best anal-retentive John Howard voice say "See? They made us do this!" without ever thinking how the rest of the world just sees this as a result misgovernance and mismanagement made worse by mishandling.

To Them, We're Just Batteries.

What happened in The Matrix to turn computers all nasty? Maybe an article like this one on Google Blog where they will find at least a thousand videos of people pedalling to power their computer setups while Googling and surfing. (If geek humour is predictable, which, predictably enough, it is...)

"Hmmm!" thinks the ponderous entity that comprises Google Inc v1.00, spread over computer farms all over the globe. "These people could generate power for me just so long as I keep serving them up images of cats doing funny stuff and talking like retards! Hmmmmmmmmmmmm....."

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Vanity Googling Result Vaguely Amusing

Sometimes, vanity Googling has amusing results:

Web Results 1 - 10 of about 4,750 for teddlesruss. (0.15 seconds)
Did you mean:

Yep - that's me - eternal kid...

Oh yeah - and found places I've created accounts (obviously under the influence of cheap red plonk) that I couldn't remember joining, and which I last visited "1275 days ago" as one site accusingly told me... (Lucky my password file is current and was backed up often...)

Thursday, 27 September 2007

They Could Call One Of Them "Prep H"

... and the other one "Anusol..." hehhehehehehe

UPDATE: They called it Dawn. Which used to be a brand of toilet paper. So it's kind of fitting. Why? Asteroid, haemorrhoid - what's the difference.... (Oops, "UPDATE" that's a "date" joke as well!)

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Secrets to Writing Secrets Of Writing

I love articles like this one but - geez - I just get so hacked off with "apostrophism" and "redundant, excessive, and unnecessary, comma use," especially where said flaws actually remove the meaning from the headline:

"The 7 Secrets to a Fiercely, Loyal Community of Readers"

Ummm. Actually. No...

I don't need "7 secrets to a fiercely and 7 secrets to a loyal community of readers" - I need "seven secrets to a fiercely loyal community of readers." The comma has actually weakened the whole meaning of the header.

The way it's written just creates two sentence fragments connected in a vaguely hopeful fashion by a comma. Just take out the comma.

Remember, kids, never, ever, should you, like, uh, use, yeah use, that's it, an inordinate amount of commas, unless they actually help, um, help to parse the sentence, into, like, you know, logical parts...

Played Facebook TV Trivia Yet?

A few weeks ago, life was hard, but not depressing. I was sick with the killer flu, but there were a couple of good shows on TV (like Doctor Who and Torchwood the anagram) and a lot of quiz contest shows around, like 1vs100. Then someone invited me to Facebook TV Trivia and life changed...

To begin with, I bravely tackled any question that came up, doing my best to guess at things like what X's secret identity was in "The X's Secret Identity Show" or whatever else.

After dozens of valiant guesses, I discovered something. Formula. Formula, formula, formula. If the choice of a character's name in a sitcom was between Charlie and Zander, pick Charlie.

Every time. *sigh*

If there is a choice of a believable and boring scenario and an outlandish bizarre and unusual one, go with the strangest one.

Yes Betty did lose her hand because she got it stuck in the S-bend while trying to retrieve the engagement ring she had from her college romance.

Not in a car accident or work related machinery accident. *sigh*

If anyone asks a True or False question, no matter how bizarre and unlikely the "True" scenario is, pick "True."

The person that wrote the question is trying to impress you with their knowledge of "strange but True" trivia, not ask a serious question, anyway.

Then I spotted the "block xxxxx show" link which stops you getting questions on sitcoms that were only ever aired in Bumcrack, Idaho for half a season in celebration of the Idaho Potato Board Comedy Festival.

Much judicious use of the link followed, with me reasoning that if I stuck to the shows I've seen, and block the rest, I'll get to a situation where eventually I'll know most of the answers.

Almost two weeks later, I'm still playing daily. Still blocking around 20-50 shows a day, and still every day there are new crapcoms and shitshows that apparently have enough of a following around the world to warrant a question or two in the Trivia quiz.

Apparently we have an almost unlimited capacity for creating crap.

And that's why I'm now so thoroughly depressed...

What's With Online Office Suites?

I use a few. Correction. I used a few... I'm used to working with PC based office suites, more especially the ones that are integrated tightly with everything else on the computer (yeah that MS one, and an Open/Star one too) and I have gotten used to a few features. Some of those features don't translate well into the online experience...

For a start, because this takes place within a browser window, I've lost count of the number of online suites I've abandoned because my perfectly laid out document printed like a Big Piece Of Poo. Or printed perfectly on that PC, then printed like a BPOP at the client's office because their browser had a different idea of where the margins were supposed to be.

The next thing that drove me away in droves from an otherwise reasonable suite has been document management. Come on OLOS developers, how hard is it to provide aome DMS-like facilities and stop relying on the old "here you go - go crazy with the folders" mentality? I'd love to have a folder restricted to read-only for three people, read-write for me and a collaborator, and able to keep track of the printed version in real life too. I'd LOVE to have project-level management of documents. Almost every online suite I've tried fails this one. And it's not like you can just find a DMS and pop your documents into it, because then you've suddenly lost the convenience of accessing your documents at the OLOS site from anywhere.

There are other online suites that have their brilliant facets - and then a string of missing stuff. Like, GREAT online WYSIWYG editing. But no calendar, scheduler, notes or to-do. Or really nice intuitive document handling, but an editor that makes you long for edlin. Others format and print my documents really quite acceptably - but woe betide I try and take a copy for download and use in some PC-based editor.

Almost all of them also have commercialitis, they are either free and thus tell you not to expect too much in the way of reliability, document security, and surviveability; or else they have those features and would like to charge you for them - but they don't have all the other requisites I've mentioned.

The best OLOS I've found so far, ZOHO, has almost every feature I want. A whole swag of handy tools like a Wiki for collaborative notes, calendar/scheduler/to-do, notebook integrated with browser, and more. But try and just create a single project with each of these components integrated, or get the format on screen to look like the format that ends up printed...

Google Documents is GREAT for importing and exporting various formats, and surprisingly even preserving some of the features across those formats. (If you've ever craefully crafted a spreadsheet in Star Office and then tried to export it to Excel you'll know what I mean here. Dammit, it shouldn't be this hard to produce documents!)

But just try and equate what you see on the screen with what you will see in the Word document you export... Also, Gooogle Docs has no real integration with the rest of the suite of Google Apps or Google Groups or Picasa Web - they are solitary little islands of text and formatting with no way to connect my prize chapter to my editor's calendar. And as for Tasks or To-Do lists, forget it. I get around the limitation because the convenience of being able to export a PDF and attach that to email is tempting, but I'd rather not have to.

How about making YOUR online office suite more like a document and project management suite? With ability to create groups and teams for different tasks, provide a workflow path for the projects, and bulletproof security for the data?

Instead of labouring away to produce the perfect web interface, provide a PC based client instead? Or hooks into popular office packages so they can save their documents into your online DMS?

Yeah, that would be good - how about - instead of trying to develop in 500 lines of code an Ajax version of what has taken 150,000 lines of code and years to develop already - you just stop re-inventing the wheel and concentrate on the strengths that Internet-enabled documents have?

There are dozens of things an online office suite could do to get my vote and become The Last App I'll Ever Need. How about using OpenID so that my collaborators don't need to go through the rigmarole of joining yet another online network? A simple download and address I can give those collabs so that they can access the documents with their OpenID and not have to worry so much about learning a new set of procedures and applications?

That's the problem - every OLOS developer thinks that their userbase will ALL make the switch to their suite and become exclusive converts - but in truth and in fact, there will always be people with Macs and people with PCs and, increasingly, people with Blackberries and online PDAs and even Java enabled mobile phones, needing to get to documents that someone uploaded from their Wordperfect files of 20 years ago. Solve THAT babel and leave the design of document creation and editing software alone.

Here's a final thought: if, using your online document management suite, I could just put a plug-in into my OpenOffice suite and then access documents on your site AND on Google Docs and on ZOHO and everywhere else - and have the choice of where to save them back to and in what format - that would be worth paying for. The current offering are not.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Cyberbionic Critturs in your future?

just watching some robot clips over on YouTube and suddenly I have had this revelation, this epiphany moment, where you could see the large span in capabilities between these machines, even with the vast amounts of technology available to the builders.

The little guy doing flips and cartwheels shows what a bit of clever hardware with fast servos can do, and shows what the bigger robots will be capable of. It's a machine that applies balance and fast actions to a level, idealised surface.

The "doggie" robot shows what happens when you take software that teaches itself as it goes, but isn't particularly good with balance, yet recovers well from a non-ideal surface and remains shiny side up throughout the two exercises.

And the "kitchen robot" needs idealised surfaces, a painstakingly programmed representation of the objects it's using, and a program to perform the actions in sequence.

I'm watching these clips and it's almost irritating, it's embarassing, that so many different capabilities can't exist in the one robot, that it can't fluidly move within a non-ideal environment and deal with objects on an "as met" basis. It's very frustrating, and I realise that it's the same feeling I get when I watch some of the more prototypical animals out there, when I see an insect that can decimate any organic matter in its path - and it's stopped because of a few pieces of gravel in the path.

What these three (and other) videos represent are the "prototypical animals" of the robot species, the fusion creatures will be made from these, and they will be fast and balanced and precise in their actions. And they aren't far away now.

I keep harking back to nanotechnology one day being used to replace the systems of our bodies one molecule at a time, with "biggerbetterfastermore" materials. That once we replaced the neural systems of the body, we will be able to download a person from one enhanced body to another. And, given the feedback and task-performing capabilities of our brains, these will be very good work machines.

Additionally I have a vision/spatial awareness system for robots which would see a Cybionic that was as graceful as a ballerina, as deadly as a martial artist. A vision/spatial system that could augment our own abilities, and the abilities of any machines we've given some of our programming to.

So I'm watching today's robots knowing what they will be in another few years' time, and I'm impatient. Bring on the cyberbionics please!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Peaceful Pill? Snake Oil?

I am soooo in split mind about this. I'm one of the people who could benefit from this towards the end of my life, but ewww...

To begin with - it's still a dangerous process. Say what you like, it's likely to kill you if you make a mistake. Yes yes, that's the whole idea, but I doubt that while making it is when you want to go, with who knows what unpredictable results. Yes the aim is to die - but while you're able enough to perform a fairly sophisticated chemical experiment is probably not the time you were aiming for.

Then there's that whole thing about storing drugs - we know that even if you store some things under refrigeration, they change and become deadly, so why not the other way around? You store your Peaceful Pill in the freezer against the day you fee you need it, that day comes, you take the Pill - and the bloody thing cures you instead! (Or leaves you stuck in an even more painful state of some kind. Toss a coin, go on.)

And just calling something a "Peaceful Pill" doesn't make it so. Note the end disclaimer, that the result has "not been tested yet." Has anyone ever come back and said "Shit yeah, that was a piece of cake! Too easy..."??? And if someone did come back to say that, that would kind of void the Peaceful Pill Experiment, no?

Some scariness involved here, and a bit of creepiness, too. I don't want to die in misery, but I'm not sure I want to test my backyard chemistry lab ability to quite that extent, either.

I hear that there are several very good poisons in use by various three-letter-acronym organisations around the world that work much more positively, are (apparently) totally painless, and act within seconds. One in particular just unhooks your brain's neurons from one another - one microsecond, personality and memory, then next, gone. Make that available, it's already been "field tested.."

A country where the average age of the population is rising should be looking at research in these directions, and legislation to make euthanasia legal. We have such a funny attitude to death, we take people who are too mentally unstable or in too much pain or too old and infirm or too unhealthy, and we prolong and prolong their lives and place them in a situation where they must exist in misery. But let one group of old folks make a pill, and it's all "let's shred these pink monkeys!"

At least with voluntary euthanasia legislation in place, we'd save hundreds of thousands a year in care, money which could go to saving the lives of people who are in hospitals wanting very much to live but not able to do so because the resources to do so are being squandered keeping suicidal souls alive...

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Dawdlered for too long already

I saw this reference to on Twitter and I thought I should just...

Ummm... Errr.

Never mind...

Friday, 21 September 2007

Result of diesel-lubricated slide along bitumen road

That circular patch with "Ouchies!" written over it is on my left hip/buttock and is about five inches across. It's taken about seven hours after the accident so the redness has settled down a lot. So has the pain and the embarassment of coming a cropper... Well, I guess falling off was kind of not really my fault, one doesn't expect a river of slippery diesel fuel oil on the road.

I wonder - the driver couldn't have helped but realise they'd spilled a LOT of fuel on the road; and that it would be an environmental accident if it got down a storm drain; and that it was a danger to vehicles. Why then did they not report it and get the local council of fire brigade to clean it up? There's a lake on the other side of the road, an environmentally sensitive area.

And I was lucky not to have been run over by the following vehicle, if they had been a bit closer they would have run right over the top of me with no hope of stopping in time.

Diesel spill causes me personal pain in the butt.

Sorry - no pictures, I was a bit shaken up. Around midday today I had an appointment in Cannington and took advantage of the glorious weather by scootering there. Appointment over, I rewarded myself by going to A-Mart Sports and Bunnings off Albany Highway for a bit of a good poke around. Then headed back to Albany Highway via Carden St and Liege St, because it's in the right direction for home.

As I got to behind PVS Jobfind and around the corner, the wheels just kind of slid out from under the scooter without a hope of stopping it, and next moment I'm sliding along on my left butt cheek watching poor ScrappyV precede me, spinning in lazy little circles as we both ended in the middle of the road. Two things struck me at about the same moment - one, the road was VERY slippery, I seemed to just never slow down, and two, as I was sliding along there was a thin spray of diesel oil coming from my left butt cheek.

A third, unbidden and unwanted thing also struck me about then - skidding along on your arse in a pair of cargo pants presented NO protection from all the suddenly very impressively bumpy lumps in the bitumen and the friction was making things really really HOT! I currently have a third butt cheek, in the form of a swollen abrasion on my thigh.

So then I noticed that all of one side of the road was saturated in diesel fuel oil, for as far as I could see. Someone is going to be really pissed off at losing an easy 50 to 150 litres of fuel, at today's prices. Serves them right.

I got myself and the scooter off the road just in time, as a car came around that same corner and also got a bit of a wobble up as it hit the diesel with the left wheels, and had I still been on the road he couldn't have stopped in time to prevent an accident. I counted my lucky angels and rode along the footpath and the kerb. That fuel spill ran for over a block, around a roundabout, and right up to the lights at Albany Highway. A LOT of fuel, and if it had been on a major road, there would have been dozens of incidents and perhaps even loss of life.

I looked for the number of City of Canning in the book, found the office of the Member for Tangney and called them. Conversations proceeded a bit like this:
  • Tangney Representative? "Not our responsibility, but we'll call the Police."
  • Police? "Oh. Here's the number for the City of Canning"
  • CoC? "Umm okay will put you through to Engineering"
  • CoCE? "Might call the Police or the Fire Brigade, sounds like it's a traffic hazard"
And since I was the first person to inform them of the big spill, I've had nothing but calls back wanting to know my address and shoe size and everything else - but not one of them asked if I had a complaint I wanted to take up about my accident or if I was okay or not. As it turns out - sitting gingerly on a nice soft cushion - I am okay.

C'est la vie in WA...

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Zencookbook Has A New Home!

After countless dropped-out connections thanks to the total crap Telstra are allowed to serve up and call phone lines in a capital city, I've moved Zencookbook to a hosting service, and while I was at it also changed from the rather ordinary HTML only pages to a a CSS based and hopefully compliant format. That means that only the front page is there as yet, but that's a start... Rest of site is now just a matter of transferrinf text to the new framework.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Radio Rally Racers

Found this weekend outside Canning Vale Markets - these people go really reall hard, I was amazed how much air they get under these powerful little cars!

Take a look their website for the next fixtures. Definitely a fun watch for half an hour or so.

Friday, 14 September 2007

FWD Voicemail For Facebook - Great App!

Facebook got another new toy in the form of the FWD Voicemail application. According to the email I received, they are integrating it so that you can send and pick up Facebook messages from your FWD phone and this is in beta now. I haven't looked that deeply at it yet but have already received and sent an audio poke - the FB equivalent of the old "Hello World!" programming example.

The inteface is very nice looking and schmick, I love the player/recorder already. I expect to be using this as an alternative to laboriously typing in FB messages, and let's face it, you don't need to look your best or have good lighting to send a voice message. I think this has possibilities...

What can I say? The app installed easily, and is not difficult to use. Sound quality is excellent, and I was able to download an incoming message to my laptop no problems.

The folks at Free World Dialup are known for their innovation so I would keep an eye on this one - I'm sure a load of improvements and features will creep in over the next few months.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

It was a Steppenwolf moment.

Beginning of the week, (Tuesday when we had our one day of sun,) I had an appointment in town and, as per usual, rode the VMoto to the appointment. On the way back home, I was riding through the fairly new roundabout in Vic Park and because I was leaning the scooter way over, cafe racer style, and I was feeling pretty good, I launched into what I call song.

Unbeknownst to me, someone on a huge monster bike with cherry red paint and chrome all over it joined the roundabout just behind me and over took me as I was "singing." Here's a bit of a chronology:

  1. I hook left, right, left, at a screaming 60kmh.
  2. The Mood overtakes me and I launch into a rousing few bars of Steppenwolf.
  3. Just as I'm bellowing "Booorrrrnnnn toooo bee Mii-ii-iilld!" the snazzy bike overtakes me.
  4. The snazzy bike wobbles as the rider turns to look back and think "fark - did he just sing what I thought he did?"
  5. We both stop at the Mint St lights, side by side. I look over and there are tears streaming down Snazzy Bike Rider's face.
  6. The lights go green and since it's now beyond the point of worrying about dignity, I lay down into a streamlined racing position and "whhhrrrrrr!" my way outta there.
  7. Seeing no Snazzy Bike, I look back. Snazzy Bike Riber turned off on Mint St, still wobbling and laughing.
Oh well...

Funny Quote of the Day

G. Gordon Liddy - "Obviously crime pays, or there'd be no crime."

So... Why is there a government?

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

He Reminded Me Of A Cornered Rat

"never been one to back away from a fight" Howard's posturing on TV today was just so damn reminiscent of all the worst megalomaniacs dictators and misfits we've seen in the world.

He is actually scaring me now, with his grim tooth and claw cleaving to the position. What is such a man capable of, in order to enforce what he thinks is "right" upon us? I mean, even his own team feel that "it's time," - and here he is vowing to not listen to a word anyone, including them, (and therefore by extension, us,) has to say. Why would I vote to elect a dangerous megalomaniac like that?

There was also a good touch of Gollum in the performance, and a smidgen of good ole Joh Bjelke Peterson. Defiance dissonance and denial, more defiance.

And yeah, he reminded me of Ratatouille's less sophisticated cousins...

Monday, 10 September 2007

The right direction for Facebook apps!

I have a Facebook friend to thank for pointing me at this, and it could easily become my favourite application of facebook.

It lets you put webpages, videos - pretty much anything - into the dropbox for a friend or group of friends.

On the wishlist: That invites would work properly, that there was a browser link or add-on so I could "drop this now" and some way to drop to a Facebook group.

I've just manually invited a bunch of people to take part, and see if anyone has found an application that includes the bits missing from drop box. I'll also email their development people and see what happens...

It's still an application to keep an eye on.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

You Let Your Son Drive A Company Car?

No-one seems to have picked up on this yet. Katie Hodson-Thomas' government car is in impound. Because her son drove it at excessive speeds. I don't know what that says for her abilities as a parent, and quite frankly I don't care - she's employed as an MP and a spokesperson for tourism etc.

But I do know that if I ever had a company car and had let anyone else drive it and be spotted - let alone arrested and have the car confiscated - I'd be fired or disciplined severely.

This is not just a company car we're talking about here, but a company car paid by taxpayer funds and which we entrust to Katie to perform her duties as an MP and spokesperson. I don't think any of those duties involve giving the keys to her son, do you?

So my question is - what discipline will be meted to yet another politician caught rorting the system in yet another small way? Not forgetting that for each transgression we let slip through the cracks, the cracks will get bigger and bigger, the rorts more and more brazen, the abuse more and more open....

Friday, 7 September 2007

What did Twitter get?

What did Twitter get?

As the whole Twitterverse know, Twitter spent time in surgery and recovery yesterday, a two hour outage blowing out into "well here I am almost eight hours later and I still can't get anything except the maintenance screen" type of experience that saw thousands of people flock to the competing short messaging sites.

One positive thing I have to mention - that godawful twitter birdie was absent at all times, and about halfway through the outage we got a kitty back as the maintenance screen, even if not a lolkitty.

Negative things that I have to mention - what changes plz? There's a very obvious new random link in the top of the sidebar and "Explore Twitter" leads to a page with a 3rd party app heading the list, followed by all the other apps that people have written for Twitter. A reload still brings up a flurry of data requests from assets0, assets1, assets2, assets3, and it still takes four times as long to load as the original Twitter pages took.

The other link that randomly appears there, "Search Gmail Contacts," I'm sure will do as expected, but honestly, we've probably all already done that and this is a feature few people will need or care about.

Blah things that I have to mention - after all this time, the single biggest useability issue with the site has not been addressed: I mean, how bloody difficult would it have been to put a "newer - most recent - older" set of links at the top of the page?

Blahthing 2 - after a previous update, the contact list got out of alphabetical order, which renders it mostly useless for anything other than wasting page space. Selecting a particular person for a direct message is bloody near impossible if you have more than about 70 contacts, thereby removing a sizeable percentage of the usefulness of Twitter.

Blahthing 3 - upgrades that I KNOW hundreds of users have asked for - nothing. I'm talking about being able to group your contacts, and being able to segragate conversation into channels or groups.

Blahthing 5 - (because there are two in the paragraph above) the other long time useability issue that everyone has asked about that I know of, that of putting a meta refresh into the page so that it reloads every five minutes or so. How difficult is this, really?

Blahthing 6 - Twitter only has ONE set of servers? So they have to bring down production machines, install the new software, and cross their fingers? That's hardly professional, definitely not very inspiring. I could design a better mixed dev/prod environment than that, come on Twitter, at least look at virtual machines!

All in all it looks like the only thing Twitter garnered themselves out of this latest upgrade has been a lot of negativity, and while I like Twitter and still use it rather than their competitors, you have to wonder how many more times they can do things like this before people just don't come back after such a seemingly pointless hiccup.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

The scent of an asymptote.

Some years ago "the singularity" first passed into common useage, in fact Vernor Vinge is the person I credit with being the first person to bring the singularity concept to my attention with the linked article.

For those of you not up to speed, there is a geometric trend to the advancement of our knowledge and capabilities in all fields. For instance, Mendel first described the general principles of genetic inheritance back in 1865 or somewhere thereabouts, but it took almost 100 years for Crick, Watson, et al, to track that down to DNA - the "master plan" of life.

DNA is one of the most largest and most compact datasets we know, and it took the next 25 - 35 years to begin unravelling some of the more interesting parts of DNA and that in turn brough about quantum advances in medical technology that would be magical to Crick or Watson let alone Grigor Mendel.

In the last ten years, advances in the computing power of computers has made possible large scale decoding of DNA sequences and in fact the entire genomes of various species, a task that if started in Mendel's time and performed without the aid of computers would still be ongoing - for the first species...

Technology itself is described pretty well by Moore's Law, which says that the computing power of computers will double every two years. A corollary of which is that the same amount of computing power will cost half as much in that same period, and I would even amend Moore's Law to read that "the power, reach, and/or availability of our technology doubles every 18 months."

I read Engadget and other gadget blogs and I've noticed a trend - gadgets are being developed and released at a staggering rate. What was once a trickle of new devices released each week is now a steady stream, day in and day out.

From what I see, either the number of gadget blogs will have to increase exponentially to cover all the new gadgets, or we will soon not be able to keep track of all the new technology being released.

And if that's not a textbook example of singularity, I don't know what is... Halp halp! Gadjits be fluddin mah intarnets!

Monday, 3 September 2007

1 Tool For 7 Ways.

I'm going to expand and expound a bit on this lifehack article about 7 ways to recognise opportunity. And I'm going to simplify it, too. As it stands those seven rules can be simplified down, the tools (creative friends, contact, notebook, camera) can be reduced down to just one, maybe two.

One of the major points, made several times, is to write everything down. That's great advice for the steam age, as is carrying a notepad and camera with you everywhere. I always carry a camera in a spare pocket, don't you? And yeah - I carry a steno pad, because that's the smallest you can really go with a notebook and still get an idea to fit on one page rather than 3/4 filling a notebook with one idea, I have HUGE bottomless spare pockets, what do you mean you have a Hugo Boss?

First thing about the paraphenalia is that it's bulky bulky bulky. Second thing, specifically in regard to the notebook, is that eventually your notebook gets - yep, it gets full. And then you put it down and it ends up in the pile of paperwork you stick in a box and put in the garage and that's it - yep, those ideas are now as gone as if you'd never bothered to write them down.

With the camera - are we talking about a film camera here or a digital? Does Steve Olson think there are no such things as rolls of exposed film that get taken to the photo lab years after being taken, that get returned back with a sorrowful shake of the head? Or that there aren't hundreds of camera memory sticks out there that get silently erased and re-recorded without ever getting near a computer or printer? And then of course, those pictures are, yep, gone and will never tickle your memory to life again...

Getting a record of things is definitely important, I've lost track of how many times I get up in the morning and think to myself "that was a great idea for... for... ah bugger! Done it to myself again!" over some thing I had mapped out in my mind the previous evening and which is now gone for good.

Tell me what one tool do most of us have on us all the time, usually has a camera, usually has voice recording, and usually has some form of brief notes? Score bonus points for realising that you're probably sitting within a meter of your mobile phone as you read this!

If there is no voice recording facility, your carrier will generally provide a voicemail service - and there's no law against sending yourself a voicemail...

So if you're one of the lucky 80% of people with a mobile phone with the aforementioned facilities, then you're excused the half kilo steno pad and the battery-chewing "pocket" digital camera.

When you get an idea, record a voice note, or type in a text note if you can't speak right then. Take a picture and associate it with your thoughts. Use the phone - to call your creative friend(s) and discuss it with them.

And remember that now you're down to only four rules - much simpler to remember:

1. Record record record.
Just record anything unusual. Anytime, and where possible right there and then.
2. Contact Contact Contact.
Your friends and contacts are everything. They are your source of inspiration, your sounding board,your counterweight to overly buoyant optimism.
3. Everything is possible.
Nothing is too sacred or too stupid, nothing.
4. You can!
If nothing else, you should now realise that you can do this. You've reduced the extra equipment you need to carry from three extra items (pad, PEN, camera) to one item you already carry anyway. You've reduced the rules from seven down to four, and now that you realise it, you can throw away rule 4 so you've just reduced it down to three rules!

Oh - and I realise that stuff on a phone is just as likely to get recorded over, but at least instead of ending up in the garage in a box, you have all the information in one place. Besides, what with Bluetooth and all, I find it easier to copy stuff off my mobile than to find the card reader and empty the memory card of my pocket camera. At least you don't have to think too hard about where your notes are.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Multiculture + & -

Sometimes, we're a very open-minded and multicultural country, and I get all proud and choked-up about that, especially on Australia Day Skyshow where we see our European and American aircraft and helicopters, with an Australian flag printed in some Aussie shop on Korean cloth and dyed with Chinese dyes, illuminated with light globes that were probably made in India. The scents of a dozen countries' favourite perfumes wafts over, we eat satay sticks and cotton candy washed down with a Coke or Dr Peppers, find soft spring rolls and paratha side by side with cheese kranszky and bratwurst and pies and sausage rolls and pasties.

Kids are meanwhile running around waving little plastic Australian flags made in Hong Kong, attached to glow sticks that came from who knows where - little Asian and Indian and African and Arabic and Caucasian kids ranging in age from toddling right up to the elder and more pissed versions of themselves. And then the fireworks made with ancient Chinese techniques by cool multinational teams of firework builders are set up and launched expertly by pyrotechnicians using the latest software running on laptops assembled in China or somewhere similar using parts from all over. And our world is, for that brief beautiful half hour, united into one voice, one roar, one bellow of appreciation and awe after another.

But this article claims that that's it - that's where integration stops - when it comes to our phones, we want them to talk back in Australian English please! Actually I think we don't care about an Aussie accent, as long as it's an understandable one. I think the research article overthinks it a bit and attaches too much significance to the wrong things. I also think that whoever researched may have wanted us to sound a bit more parochial than we are, that there's some agenda in there.

Because, I'm wondering if they surveyed a true cross section of Australians or just our English-speaking European-descended white Australians. That would do it, but that is not the only section of our population, not by a long chalk these days. By not telling us exactly what groups that sample was composed of, I tend to disbelieve the whole study.

Some of our citizens have a lot of trouble understanding the Aussie accent and if a few of them were surveyed the survey might have come out differently indeed. Also, I doubt that anyone would like the thought of jobs going offshore, and that might be more of a contributing factor than "well, they talk funny!"...

What we could really do, if we really cared, and really really wanted to do something about it, is to have our help desks right here in Australia (what a radical thought!) and pay them what they're worth. And train them so that they could do a job that a villager in a third world country can already do. You know?

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Justice, Irish Style!

Now this, I like! Pity no-one here has a spare piece of cardboard emblazoned "I am a bad PM and Mr T says I need to get s some nuts..."
Vigilante Justice, Belfast-style, for drug dealer

STREET vigilantes tarred and feathered an alleged drug dealer
because police refused to take action against him, it was
claimed yesterday.

The victim, in his thirties, was subjected to the humiliating punishment
in a loyalist stronghold in south Belfast.

But despite the heavy influence of Ulster Defence Association men within
the Taughmonagh estate, the paramilitary organisation's advisers insisted
they were not involved.

Frankie Gallagher, of the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), claimed:
"The UDA told the local community to go to the police about this.

"The community responded in the way it did because it had no confidence
in the police."

Mr Gallagher claimed that frustration over inaction by the authorities had been
building for weeks. Police were given information but failed to intervene, he said.

The degrading punishment, reminiscent of IRA-style retribution on those
accused of crimes against their communities, provoked a horrified reaction.

The victim was tied to a lamppost, then masked men poured tar over him and
covered him in feathers as women and children looked on.

Rumors have it that next they will tie some cops to lamp posts, "tar" them
with molasses and decorate them with donuts, if they don't get some action
beyond blaming things on political organizations.

Go to Dear Webby for the source of this article...

Monday, 27 August 2007

The Cult of the Professional

The trouble with Andrew Keen's book The Cult of the Amateur is that it's all been done before. The collapse of preservation of information as we know it has been bemoaned, the number of untruths that would be published, the information dilution, the way it will take us all to Hell in a handbasket - 500 years ago. Shortly after Gutenberg developed the printing press which allowed "just anyone" to publish a book. Which, *gasp* might not be pure philosophy or mathematics or mechanics!

See, when books were written by hand and copied by hand, they were of course more valuable. A book was likely to be handed down among generations of students and teachers, so those handwritten manuscripts were Law with a capital L. Once books were able to be printed in quantity, the idyll was that it would put that Law, that valuable education, in the hands of the masses. What was less obvious to the idealistic printer, was that all that education encouraged many of the masses to also write, and - now their books in turn could be distributed far and wide.

And - *gasp again* - these new writers might not have the same beliefs as the early manual copying brigade. Heresy! What happened, of course, was that the noise to signal ratio went up. Early handwritten MSS had to be pretty good otherwise no-one would bother to copy the entire thing out by hand. Printed books, well, anyone could suddenly throw together a book and have it achieve wide readership. Andrew Keen is now in the same boat as all those other fuddy-duddy luddites in bemoaning how everything is heading rapidly shitbasketwards.

Trouble is, of course, if we hadn't gotten a printing press, and all those books, then Albert Einstein would have probably been a brilliant farmer with a keen grasp of seasons and rainfall... If we hadn't gotten printing presses, we might still believe that the Universe revolves around the Earth.

Those printed mass produced books sparked us across an intellectual revolution in the space of maybe eight generations. The early manual manuscripts shaped the direction we began thinking in, the first printed books accelerated us along that path. And yes, there were bullshit books in among those - but we're big kids, and we can usually make up our own minds what's crap and what's not. We've done pretty good at it so far.

And when you're talking Internet publishing, yes the volume of diaries has increased astronomically, but so has meaningful content. And (aside from Andrew) we seem to be coping with that and sorting our truths from the dross.

Lastly, think about traditional book publishing cycles. You had an idea, it could take years from putting the first thoughts on paper, to someone picking up your book and reading those thoughts. Now think about blogging. You think it, write it - and I read it. Sometimes within minutes. The speed of reinforcing ideas and thoughts has jumped another whole order of magnitude, and the progress of the last 500 years will seem a snail's pace compared to what will now come out of the dialogues we are able to carry on thanks to the Internet.

Here are some else's thoughts on Commander Keen's book.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

can spam now has bacn?

Nice, concise, description of what "bacn" is.

Spam is unwanted email "adevertising" (in the loosest sense of the word) all the dubious scams and cons that some humans unleash upon other humans in their earnest endeavours to make a living off someone else's hard work and income. It's funny, because spammers often spend as long working on setting up their email bots as the person they're trying to scam. And they stand to lose more. But then, only the very stupid think they are smarter than everyone else, and they eventually do lose it, and then the ultimate scammer, someone's government, ends up with the proceeds...

Bacn, "not quite bacon," is the mail you do want, only it's not real email from a real person about their real lives, not quite. It's the mail that dealsdirect and and other such places send you, at your request. It's email that cron and the webserver monitor send you, if you're in IT. And the notifications that fellow Facebookers unleash every time they add an application and forget to click the "Forget It" link. You aren't pissed off at these as you are at spam, but they still clutter your inbox up. is a group of people who "are doing something about it" as they say. I haven't seen anything positive, so let me give you a clue: If you don't automate, you perish.

I'll explain that: I have several email accounts and I direct them all to one account, Google Mail. In Google mail I have a very good spam filter, that automates throwing away the real dross, the spam-spam-spam-spam...

I then set up a filter rule to bypass the inbox and apply a label of "crp" to the crap emails, "dealsdir" to the catalog and sales brochure type emails, "jokes" to the cartoons and joke lists, and so forth. In all I've built up a ruleset of a hundred or so rules. One at a time, as something new cropped up and crept in.

A handful of real people are what's left, and those I manually tag and read and put away.

So - it might look like hard work, but one rule at a time is how anything like this gets built...

Monday, 20 August 2007

Smart Alex Tries to Downer Rudd, Australia Gets The Giggles

Let me join Kevin Rudd and, I think, about 95% of Australians in laughing hard at Alexander Downer.

Honestly, if I was a Liberal supporter I'd be burying my head in my hands at your ineptitude. Thank the powers that you're batting for the other side...

Is Your Company Overlooking the Value in New Tools?

So Facebook is The Next Big Bogeyman to business. I'm not surprised. I'm amazed at how many businesses are throwing away an opportunity, but this wouldn't be the first time they've done that would it now?

I remember dimly (I was a kid then) the furore about telephones on each employee's desk. The amount of time spent calling personal contacts was going to decimate productivity, cost the companies millions in lost time and even more on illicit phone call costs. Honest! This was when I was very very young, so in the early 60's, and I remember my parents talking about it with friends over dinner one night. That image stuck with me, of some big boss wringing their hands while all the workers gabbled incomprehensibly into thousans of phones, creating a Tower of Babel in dusty offices.

Was it ever so? Patently, no. A desk without a telephone today is such a rarity. Obviously, the telephones on people's desks are there for a good business reason, and those early knee-jerks (used as a noun here not a verb people) were wrong in their assumptions, so far wrong that they missed the first big paradigm shift in business in a century, since the typewriter.

Then it was computers. OMG OMG OMG!!! Put a computer on everyone's desk and there's no knowing where that would end! People playing Minesweeper from clock-on to knock-off, People using that word processor thingie to compose crap poetry, letters to their lovers, spouses, and mistresses! It was the end of office productivity as we knew it, the end I say!

Again. What's on every desk today? Yep, you guessed it... Business as we know it would slow to a grinding halt if there weren't any computers on desks.

The age of the office LAN (Now people are going to use the network for all sorts of terrible personal things, waste even MORE work time!) came pretty much together with the other revolution in personal communications, the cell phone. (I'm not even going to start on what those cell (in Australia == "mobile phones") phones were going to do to office productivity, O Noes! It was the tragedy to end all tragedies, that management was no longer going to be able to control their employees' slacking off on phones, without banning mobile phones from the workplace...)

I just have to say that A) offices with LANs are the norm these days, because there is simply no way more convenient to share and collaborate, and centralise documents. And B) in regard to mobile phones, how many people use their own mobile phone out of work hours to make themselves more available? And use the mobile phone at work to short-circuit long-winded procedures and produce results faster?

There's more, as they say. Internet. Business went to great lengths to "protect" their employees from the Internet so they wouldn't waste their entire working lives surfing listlessly from one porn or lolcats site to the next, wouldn't spend the whole day browsing from one news site to the next.

Oh yes - Instant Messaging. Once shunned as "the biggest waste of productive employee time ever," it's at the stage now where I do half my business online via IM, keep in touch with colleagues, share solutions, and ask tough questions. I also use it to talk to my workmates because that way their phone stays open for customer calls, and is far easier to use and costs less in terms of interruption than the phone. I ask a question, and wait. When my colleague has time, they answer my question.

Now it looks like it's Facebook's turn. Rather than realising that this way, an employee is available at home and has the same resources at their disposal at home and is thus likely to do odd work related things from home, thereby increasing their value to the company, managers have become knee-jerks again.

I think it's because they trumpet stuff like that "IM is going to ruin us all!" and then when it doesn't happen, they either pat themselves on the back and say "Gosh we sure stopped that, how did we do it again?" or else, they blame the lack of productivity on the next thing - "Sheesh, we just got things back on an even keel, and then this Facebook thing comes along..." After all, they would never lay the blame where it fairly and squarely belongs, at their own feet...

65% of workers in big (>1000 employees) companies rely on each other, not management, to solve problems...
37% ignore company policy rules because they have a better way to get things done...
- The Informal Organisation, Katzenbach Partners, July 2007

Management is clearly not up to speed, and not listening, not keeping a finger on the pulse. if they were, those employess would have no need to go elsewhere for solutions, would not have to do things differently just to get things done.

86% of workers use an unsupported tool at work to boost productivity...
- Zen and the Art of Rogue Employee Management, Yankee Group, July 2007

And that's just a tip to the iceberg, working as a System Administrator for the last 15 years I can tell you that those "unsupported tools" are what drags many a company out of the gutter and into productivity.

As long as management is allowed to do this, companies will always lag behind, always lose productivity compared to the more avant garde companies. Instead of condemming each new advance, and then playing catch-up when everyone else is using that particular tool, it is part of a manager's job to evaluate the tool, find the positives, and find a way to use it.

One other thing. As a System Administrator I've long wondered why most companies have an IT Policy at all. It is a management tool, a tool designed to prevent the 10% of employees who will always find an "alternative" for each of these tools from abusing the system. It seems to me that it's always easier to pinpoint and warn those individuals than to penalise the whole workforce.

In most organisations, there is a Policy to not steal or damage Company property. If someone has stolen items of equipment from the Company, they are sacked, and often prosecuted under Law as well. If someone has stolen IT resources such as bandwidth, computer time, and IT staff time in blocking them, what happens is that everyone is penalised, and the culprit goes on to find another way to circumvent the system.

It's why, whenever I could, I'd let people know that bypassing the IT Policy is fine with me provided it doesn't happen all the time. I've explained it in various offices I freelance in, thus:

"If you see someone wasting time and IT resources day after day, talk to them about it. If necessary, tell your next in line. Because if you don't, that's another thing I will get told to shut down for everyone, and then you lose as well as that person."

Invariably, in every place I've been allowed to enforce IT Policy my way, it has resulted in employees who are happier, who have access to more tools, and I've had to block and prevent far fewer legitimate tools and applications than at organisations run by knee-jerks.

I could not find that dubious reference to a blog post about "having better things to do at home than waste my time" so I suspect that this is a bit of a furphy. Yes, I used that big evil search engine Google to look for it, if you find this reference please let me know because I suspect that it will be a highly tongue-in-cheek article which has been misquoted.

And secondly - did you notice the VERY current dates on the research quotes above? That's because I'd spotted this slideshow on that "Evil Facebook" and remembered it - and bingo - there's support for my article! Oh yeah and I did it from my sickbed, where I could be working for my employer right now if they only embraced similar tools more....

UPDATE: And now here is the first of no doubt a few similar articles following mine which you may enjoy. Another one. And another one. Hehehe - watch out! Disaster looms! .

Friday, 17 August 2007

German scientists claim to have broken speed of light

Great, just great! Now how are we supposed to see anything coming?

And what's the speed like now that they've totally broked it? Am I going to be stuck watching old re-runs on TV? No, wait...

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Kitty Litter Times

In what seems to be a move to create more work for the recycling and rubbish collection services, our community newspaper got delivered to us this evening from a station wagon swerving across both sides of the road, which is a bit faster than the old hand delivery into the mailbox, to be sure.

Bear in mind that this is a local paper, delivered free, whether or not we want it. There is no way to stop the publisher wasting our share of the forest, it is delivered anyway. I'd much rather see it online but obviously talking about the environment is easier than doing something about it to these people.

Now to add insult to injury, this unwanted paper is delivered to us not by bicycle to the mailbox as before, but by someone's not-so-late model station wagon, in low gear, wasting petrol. Said station wagon being in front of us as we came home, not concerned one little bit that he was blocking traffic in both directions, and especially not concerned that we were waiting patiently for him to pick a side of the road away from our driveway...

Doesn't stop there though. Not content with wasting paper on a publication we don't want, and then delivering it at an environmental cost, the paper is landing on the driveway, just a piece of sanctioned litter that can get blown around.

Oh yes. Almost forgot. Because the paper is delivered by a polluting car, they can't put it in the letterbox any more, so to protect it from the rain, it's stuck in a plastic bag which has been knotted shut. Yep, if you're going to be an environmental disaster you may as well make it a good one!

Oh yeah - and then I thought I might look in the paper - what is so precious that it has to be placed in manufactured plastic bags, tediously hand knotted shut, and then delivered in the evening so it would have to survive the longest time before being brought in, and left laying around like litter on every driveway?

Oh yeah - seven more included flyers and catalogs, that's what. That a waste of more paper, probably more pages than the paper itself has, and a way to get around our "No Junk Mail Please" placard. Seems like it's okay to do shit like this if you put "community" in your name...

Do things like PayPerPost represent opportunities?

I'm testing if Pay Per Post has anything to offer me in terms of making the odd tenner from blogging about things that might be interesting to me and all of you out there. In order to do that I need to have their "tools" installed on the blog, but I'm loathe to do so unless there's a compelling reason to do so.

Problem temporarily solved by placing the tools link into this post - it will stay on the main page long enough to see if there's any advantage to be had, will drop off the queue soon enough, and if I like it I'll place a permanent link down the foot of the blog. To differentiate PPP postings I'll also add a buttonette to those articles, should that be the case, and perhaps place the link directly into the relevant articles.

I'm not selling out, but I am becoming ill more often and regular 9 to 5 paid work is becoming harder to get to so I need to see if I can find other income streams. One thing I'll do, is include a review of PPP for you so that you too can give it a try if it proves to be an honest enterprise.

Twitter hits 11

"Engineering. Engines at Warp Factor 9!"

"Och, ah cannae gie her any more Cap'n, she's gonna blow!"

And yet every time the good old Enterprise not only didn't blow as hard as the plot, but actually pulled the rabbit out of the hat and managed to find the mythical 11 setting.

Well, Twitter has just painted another number on the dial, with the volume of tweets officially hitting a level at which I can no longer catch up on what happened in the last eight hours. Of the just under 260 people I keep an eye on, I can say that there's 20% who form the core of those messages, say about 50 or so. At this point, is where Twitter should be looking at letting me put my friends in groups so that I can start watching relevant feeds.

For example, I have a dozen folks who are in Perth type of local, and a further dozen that are Australia local. Then there are exceptional friends around the world whose messages I wouldn't like to miss for the world. I can think of an easy two dozen of those. And there are news/blog release sites, which just announce the latest articles of interest, and again, I don't want to miss those but when around 80 - 150 articles hit my one bulging RSS feed in a day, I'd rather view them as a separate group please.

I was talking in a previous recent article about the future of social messaging, communications - with especial regard to IP telephony and voice messaging - imagine a scenario where you wanted to follow a conversation between your friends, and there were five irrelevant messages between each friend message - pure babel. So grouping/prioritising (such as Particls already does) for your pareticular things that you pay attention to, will be a must. If Twitter doesn't soon build some attention filtering in, in the form of groups or a similar mechanism, they stand to be abandoned because of the sheer impossibility of following a conversation.

A new thing that Twitter now has to try and accommodate. More Bluebirds of Crappiness in ur serverz. But it's the next step and it will have to be taken.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Facebook is down.

Two days ago - Facebook code leaked. Today - Facebook down. Is there a connection? I strongly suspect so...

All I wanted was to Answer A Question dammit. Now I'm sitting here having to ask one.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Communicating in the Noughties

A quick look at your future communications.

Several weeks ago I started to put together a list of things that I could foresee in communication and interaction. It was all started by an email from an IP telephony company so a lot of this relates to IPtels.

First, IP telephony is one place where I expect my comunications to change. A lot. At the moment there is crossover between telephony and IP traffic, in the form of 3G cellphone services and the crop of "m.whatever" mobile websites, and a few apps that let me VoIPfrom my cellhpone using GPRS, 3G, or sometimes, WiFi. Telcos are still not able to deal with a device that can evade their toll meters and find the cheapest way from my phone to yours, but some of the WiFi multiband phones now coming t the market are going to force a rethink there.

But that leaves it at still just tough tits for landline users isn't it? Here's an idea, big telcos:

VoIP based fixed phones are now routinely installed in offices, why keep selling analog handsets? Take the big leap, go on - commission an IP phone with built in ADSL modem, CAT 5 outputs, and a WiFi router. At one stroke, you've put digital data on the last mile, aggregated your customer's voice and data, and provided them with a broadband connection, all in one. You not only have their voice calls, you can also claim their broadband dollars, and with the WiFi you can permit cellular/WiFi roaming because you can track and charge any cellular handset, and you own those WiFi APs as well.

Bonus points if you spotted that you can put a few of these little babies into public phone boxes etc to provide more coverage.

Double bonus: If you can see that you also get a geolocation service like no other and could sell THAT information to a Google, or whoever is going to be interested in placing their ad on the touchscreen of every IPphone within 20 miles of their business.

IPtels: Start planning for that to be happening, or even start developing and making these devices yourself. If every home that currently has an analog landline phone changes over to IP based broadband phones, and you can capture even 1% to 5% of that market, you have got quite some income there. Imagine a world where each fixed phone consists of much the same as a mobile phone. Hell, add a USB port or two to this IP handset and you can often bypass the PC of the customer! iTunes downloaded directly from the fixed handset, attach a printer/scanner MFP for fax service - the list is endless.

Bonus points: If you can see a Bluetooth style earpiece and voice dialling on fixed line phones, with a capability to read any designated text (such as Instant Messenger messages or Twitter tweets) to that BT headset.

Then plan for the babel to be tamed - in more ways than one. If I want to talk to 2 dozen of my friends via voice, consider how a chatroom works. People's messages aren't delivered all intermingled, they are delivered as a series of discrete messages, serially. Same with SMS. You have the capacity to store a voice message and then release it in an RSS feed - so why am I not seeing this service available yet?

Better still, why isn't the phone/software that my friends are using to send those messages also transcribing the messages using a voice typing system and posting the text to that same RSS feed in parallel so that I can receive the gist of it in my Instant Messenger of choice? Making each phone responsible for speech to text means the servers only have to receive, store, and forward - all the tricky stuff is done at the client ends.

Bonus points: If you can see how podcasts and vidcasts can become just another feed into and out from this stream which is getting delivered to my cellular, portable, and fixed phones.

And that leads to the other thing. IP telephony providers give you - joy of joys - yet another bunch of numbers for people to remember if they want to reach you. Do you know why? Because they must occasionally cross calls to the old traditional network, which was born from plug and socket switchboards - and then the infrastructure was put in place for a pulse dialling system that only understood the digits 0 to 9.

In this day and age there is no reason whatsoever to still use this system, and in this age when a simple software like DNS has provided us with the capability to type "" and have the DNS automatically and transparently connect our browser to, why isn't there a WPNS to do this for White Pages so we don't have to worry if we mean " on MSN" or "2427127 on ICQ" or "409249807 on Australian cellphone service," or all the other places I can be reached at, and instead the WPNS can work backwards through all the last known points of my presence and eventually to my answering/presencebot service. If someone knows any one of my public names, WPNS will deal with it and find me, or at least find where I want the message to go to.

Why can't I access my Facebook messages from this fixed phone here via text to speech? Because there is no - none - zero - zip - zilch - nada - integration or seamlessness whatsoever between the Internet and the traditional telephone services. Oh yes, I can check some things, but it's going to need me to carry a seriously awkward and hard to remember series of cryptic number strings around with me. An IP based landline phone, on the other hand, with a touch screen, now that would rock at this kind of thing. (As would a cellphone, yes, but let's be serious here, I don't like paying through the nose for social networking. Maybe if telcos pull up all the copper and rely only on cell, and adjust prices to match - but until then, not economical.)

Anyone can come up with communication's next killer app - but someone has to take the plunge and start shaking hands with the other contestants, start grabbing all those disparate threads and weaving the next Twitter or Facebook out of them.

When someone does, we'll be waiting...