Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Take note(s)

I'm not sure that I have a use for this right now but this tool looks fantastic. It's Etherpad - an online tool which allows everyone to see and work on a document at the same time. And obviously, if you're also on Skype you can talk to each other while you're doing it - which will make the exercise a whole lot easier! There's a brief intro video showing what it can do on the site. (Of course,it could also be a way of sidestepping the lack of an IM program on your work computer but I'm sure no-one will advocate that ... especially when you can already do that through GMail.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Open letter to Apple

Dear Apple
Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the flash memory you have ordered from Samsung (is it really their total production until the end of April?) was going to be used for a new product to be announced at the June Conference? Well, it probably is, but wouldn't it be fantastic if that product was the new NetTouch: a cross between an iPod Touch and a netbook (apologies to Psion if they have finally managed to successfully trademark/protect the term "netbook"). My vision of it: it has an environmentally friendly clam shell which folds completely to the back of the machine - or, more likely, an optional leather case which the NetTouch slips into for protection. There is a 10" touch screen and the same great features as the iPod Touch except that there's also copy and paste functionality. It has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 2 or 3 USB hubs, built-in mic and speaker, and a built in stand so you can sit and watch iTunes content or do VOIP calls without having to hold the NetTouch. Now this may seem a bit far-fetched, but I've seen the (now discredited) rumours of the MiniMac doing the rounds and know that it's time for a "new" product - and you could really do so much better than another iteration of the iPhone. And we don't need a small device with a keyboard. What's the use of learning to type if you can only peck at tiny tiny little keys; oh wait, there's an idea - what about some interconnectivity with wireless keyboards? And the ability to use your existing phone as a modem?
I know that all of this would need to be well in hand for a June launch - and, given that, I'd also like to say that I'd be happy to test-drive the NetTouch for you - and I'd do a better job of holding on to it than Telstra senior management did of holding on to the dog-food/Windows Mobile 6.5-loaded phone at WMC earlier this week.
I look forward to hearing from you.

New experience

We're off to see a performance of Fairy Queen this weekend and already it has had a profound impact on me. It was responsible for my first visit to Spotlight - a fabric and craft chain - where there are aisles and aisles of things to do, things to see. Who knew there was such a thing as a quilting calculator or that you could get metres and metres of faux fur from animals that could never really exist in the wild - not to mention large wooden initials, bigger than a handspan (notice that convenient sidestepping of another metric vs imperial decision and/or conversion). Or shiny fabrics; fabrics with animals, plain fabrics, textured fabrics; zippers, buttons, tulle ... too much to take in. My mission (a success bar the hyperventilation and getting lost among the fancy dress costumes and paint sets): purchase at least 300 metres of Gutermann #23 thread (which is actually dark brown) for Oberon's costume. Don't think I won't be watching that character with much interest!
(Did I mention that this production of Purcell's Fairy Queen is the first anywhere in the world by a GLBT choir.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Name of a movie starring Nicolas Cage

What's the best way to approach a monkey? Try not to appear "different" seems to be the answer, based on the attack this week by an otherwise "tame" chimpanzee on a person known to him. Travis, the 14-year-old 91kg chimp, had just finished a meal of fish and chips and ice cream when he stepped outside for a moment - and then refused to come back in when his owner, Ms Herold, called. At some point, Ms Nash arrived on the scene - except it was not the one Travis was used to - she was now driving a different car and had changed her hairstyle from long brown to short blonde. When she offered Travis a teddy bear, he "went" wild, attacking her - possibly because he did not recognise her. (Gives a whole new meaning to "stranger danger" doesn't it?) His owner, who has said that she and Travis had often shared a glass of wine before snuggling into bed, was forced to use a shovel and knife to try to save Ms Nash who was so badly mauled in the attack that attending paramedics initially thought she was a man. The New York Post carried a story entitled: "Pri-Mates. That happy couple: Bizarre love of gal & ape". It will be interesting to see if this story ever makes it to one of those US reality shows featuring police and/or other emergency services - especially for a replay of the 911 call - part of which follows but you'll need to select it to read it - as some may find it distasteful. During the call, Ms Herold screams "Oh, my God! He's eating her! He's eating her face!"
Update 6 March 09 (select the following lines to read): The woman has lost her hands, nose, lips, and eyelids and may be blind and suffering brain damage.  Hospital officials are reported in The Daily Telegraph as saying it's unclear if her condition can improve at all.  Travis was destroyed soon after the attack.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ATM raiders

Sydney has seen a number of BAM raids in recent months where people use gas to blow up ATM machines to rob them. We’re about to be hit by a new lot of ATM raiders – the banks who own them. They are changing their fee structure for ATM usage - including introducing a disloyalty fee if you use another bank’s ATM. Seems part of the new economic modelling: automate and then charge more and more for your customers to self-service.

Subs Zero

Probably the last thing you want while you’re deep underwater in your submarine is to run into something. This happened to two submarines earlier this month when they collided with each other mid-Atlantic Ocean. Both subs were damaged but didn’t spring a leak. So how do two 150metre-long subs come to find themselves at the same spot and same depth in the ocean - displaying a skill which would have no-one lining up to challenge them to a game of Battleship? Investigations continue but early suggestions are a possible procedural error – ie not maintaining a safe distance between the vessels; bad luck - or by design - the two vessels may have been unable to hear each other because of technology designed to make then invisible to enemies. This particular innovation, if it were the cause, may ”need more work”. The good news is that the collision did not compromise nuclear safety: important as each sub can carry up to 48 nuclear warheads on 16 missiles. (Source: The Daily Telegraph.)

Hold the phone

First there were reports of the iPhone being used by folk wishing to gain an unfair advantage while playing pub trivia – phone a friend and/or consult the internet – and now there are concerns that some people are cheating at casino blackjack using a card counting application on the iPhone or iPod Touch. This is, of course, illegal as it gives people a better chance of beating the odds at tables. Where will it all end?

Art or handiwork?

Reading about the Mona Lisa in Lego, ie made out of, this morning I was intrigued to see the angle columnist Elizabeth Fortescue had taken. She questioned whether art is still art if the artist doesn’t "do” it. She used the example of Damien Hirst, the UK artist famous for dead sharks and cows in tanks of preserving liquid. If the work is carried out by others, albeit to his specifications, is it still “his” – especially as that special touch the artist brings to the finished work is not included – and anyone following the same specifications can reproduce the piece? (Can you patent an art idea?) As an aside, mate T, when we were talking about this, pointed out that Elizabeth’s background is in architecture – where award winning designers have their works assembled by others.

Losing your memory

How would you like it if someone showed you pictures of spiders while giving you a mild electric shock – and encouraged you to remember the images so you would come to associate the pictures with the pain? Then they have you in the next day, show you the pictures again, and try to startle you with random sudden noises? Then they measure how strongly you blink, in reaction to the sounds, to see if you’ve had a strong startle response. Oh, and did I mention that you and the group of people with you have been split into two smaller groups, known only to the researchers, who has given one lot of you a beta blocker – similar to that given to heart patients – and the other have received a placebo pill.. (There could also be a group there who get no pill but this isn’t reported in the Daily Telegraph article I’m reading about the experiment.) This is what Dutch researcher Dr Merel Kindt and his helpers have done with a group of 60 men and women. The result: the group given the beta blocker showed a much milder startle response than the others – and when they were re-tested the next day, after the drug had left their system – they still had a milder startle response than the others - leading researchers to the conclusion that the painful memories were erased. In theory, the report says, it could eradicate memories of traumatic events from years earlier. It might also help-patients overcome phobias, obsessions and eating disorders.
Across the Channel, British experts are raising possible ethical concerns: “... before eradicating memories we must reflect on the knock-on effects on individuals - society and our sense of humanity.” How can you learn from a mistake if you can’t remember it. Or, I could pose other questions: what effect are these drugs having on people who are already taking them for heart conditions? Are their memories already undergoing change/s? Would the use of beta-blockers be a feasible defence in a criminal trial – either for or against the accused?
Back here in Australia, T reminded me that wiped memory is part of the premise for Joss Whedon’s new (first broadcast in the us last Friday!) series, Dollhouse. In it the Dolls aka Actives are reset after each mission with new personas including memory, muscle memory, skills and language. The story follows key character Echo who begins to become self-aware, which you wouldn’t think would be a problem since the Actives are supposedly volunteers ... unless, perhaps, their deal is that they’ve signed up to forget. It may be some time before we know here I haven’t heard of an Australian release date yet.


We saw “Milk” yesterday, the new Gus Van Sant film about Harvey Milk - the first openly gay man to be elected to office in the United States; also the first one to be assassinated. I have vague recollections of the events that unfolded in San Francisco in the mid-to-late 1970’s. I’m sure Milk’s murder made the news here in Australia but fear it may have been overshadowed by the other breaking news at the time: the Jonestown Massacre where over 900 souls were lost after following Jim Jones’ instructions to drink poison. In the closing sequences of “Milk”, there was a graphic which read that Milk’s ashes had been scattered together with some grape Kool Aid (reports suggest Flavor Aid packets were found at the JonesTown scene), and bubble bath. The film raised, for me, many questions. If you have an end in sight; is any action justified to reach that goal? What is the nature of power; does having influence change a person? If so, is it possible to have power and not be corrupted by it? Can power be taken or does it need to be bestowed? Did Pat White shoot Milk and Mayor Moscone because he perceived they had slighted him – as I understood it from the film. Or because he was a man under pressure and they seemed to be the focal point for no reason except they were there and he believed them responsible? It was also humbling (? it’s difficult to find the right word here) to know that some of the folk who helped and supported Milk are still around, and doing good works, these 30-odd years later. Makes me wonder how they have reacted to the film and their, and Milk’s, portrayal. For example, Anne Kronenberg, who worked as Milk’s campaign manager for his successful Supervisor bid. In the film she is a lesbian then – and now, a mother of three working in a US Government department. I read a comment by her on an item on the site and she made the point that Harvey Milk had been a great bridge builder – bringing together different groups – woman, seniors etc – and that was certainly portrayed in the film. Lots to think about here including how close to actual events is Van Sant’s portrayal of the Life and Times of Harvey Milk eg Milk had apparently made an audio recording to be played in the event of his death: there was no mention in the Wikipedia entry as to the contents of the tape except for Milk’s suggestion for possible replacements for his Supervisor position in the event of his demise.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dodging a bullet

It’s not uncommon to hear of Apple chasing someone for infringing on their intellectual property, but the shoe’s on the other foot at the moment with Picsel Technologies claiming that Apple, and others, have used their patented method of accelerated screen updating in over 250 million handset worldwide. It’s good to know that Apple don’t have a stranglehold on innovation. Although it doesn’t seem as though IBM is doing a bad job – according to Engadget, they’ve apparently just been granted a patent for bionic body armour which is intended to bestow the wearer the power to dodge bullets. Hmmm ... was it only last week that Microsoft investors were complaining about its R&D?

An uncertain tale

AKA Vacuum Cleaner 1; Lizard ? ... Well, there really isn’t that much more to say about this, except that it’s probably proof, yet again, if it were needed, that I can only concentrate on one thing at a time. The lizard was hiding behind the power point under the sideboard, among the cat-fur tumbleweeds. As I whooshed them up, I noticed movement as the lizard made a dash for it; tail-less, but whether that was from the vacuum cleaner or some previous encounter, I couldn’t tell. (I’ve never thought to ask before: does a lizard tail amputation look like a wound, or does it sever cleanly?) I encouraged it to “run” or at least hide properly, and determined to keep the nozzle well away from it – until I was distracted by Em, our timid cat, as she made a dash from under the table where she had been hiding, past the vacuum cleaner and up the hall, slipping and sliding on the floor boards as she went. When I was sure she was away okay, I turned back to the vacuuming, just in time to wonder what that “long skinny black thing” was – as it disappeared into the nozzle. I think Mr Lizard might have fared better if I hadn’t emptied the vacuum dust repository before I started cleaning today (and yes, NOW I know NOT to press the button on the top, because that makes the bottom swing open, dumping the contents on the floor). I turned off the vacuum and emptied it straight away but couldn’t find an intact lizard (sans tail) in there so I’m not sure what happened to it. I shook the hose a few times but nothing fell out so I can only hope it’s in there, clinging, spiderlike, inside the hose until it thinks it’s okay to come out. It has about a week to make its escape – hopefully it still can!

Mark (my) word

What do you do if you accrue scarce resources? You use two words using _c_r_e in the same sentence. Of course, if you play ecarte while doing it, you've used three - which is all that the WordBook dictionary lists for this letter combination. Of course, Aard lists others: ecurie, scarfe, scerne and scorse - but until I can find them in a standard dictionary, they'll never be allowed in Scrabble. And I've just found an interesting function on my WordBook dictionary - on the iPod - when looking for "ecurie" - to check it wouldn't show up in a standard dictionary - WordBook offered a list of "Sounds-like Matches". I'm not quite sure how they figure "whackier", "joker" and "each year" make the cut - but it's nice to be offered alternatives. Finally a way to look up a word when you're not sure how it's spelled (long an enigma for me with hard-copy dictionaries).
WordBook is available for iPod Touch (and iPhone) and includes contents from WordNet 3.0 c 2006 Princeton University, and plus it has crossword and anagram functionality. (Yes, I know, another reason to move to the iPod Touch but it's probably also available for other platforms.)

Public reaction

News last week from the UK of a 13-year-old boy fathering a child has been followed this week with the news that the boy, Alfie Patten, is only one of three teenagers who claim they could be the father of Maisie. Two other lads, one 14, the other 16, claim that they, too, slept with Chantelle Steadmans (then 15) and could be Maisie's real father. One is even calling for a DNA test to confirm the child's parentage. According to The Daily Telegraph today, both of the other boys and their parents (although what they could add is unclear) have made sworn statements in front of a solicitor detailing their nights of sex with Chantelle. Chantelle's family insist she lost her virginity to Alfie and that he is the father. Earlier reports had suggested that Chantelle was taking birth control pills but missed one.
My question: is it possible that there would be fewer "fathers" stepping forward if the story had not made front page news around the world? This is where newspaper reporting just doesn't work sometimes ... I'm curious to know when Alfie was identified as the father - before or after the birth. It's unlikely that Chantelle kept her pregnancy secret and you'd think that all of the lads might have cottoned on sooner that they could have been the father - rather than when the birth became "news". But at least there might be some support and help forthcoming for mother and child given the story has gained such prominence .. and served as a reminder for others to be vigilant with their chosen method of birth control. (My Uncle Mick used to say that a pill held firmly between the knees worked every time!)

In the bag

This is intriguing. Both in it being "capable of arousing interest or curiousity" and "disturbingly provocative". I noticed the ad last week but filed it away somewhere in the back of my brain - but here it is again in today's paper: Forensic Medicine. A one-night a week Certificate course - no entry requirements or exams - over 25 weeks - covering the basic elements of forensic medicine, and open to the general public. As the toe tag on one of the two feet in the ad reads: "What happened? Who is the person? When did he die? How did he die? And possibly, who did it?! Fascinated? Then this certificate course is for you."
The course is being run at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, and information packs are available by calling (02) 9554 3100 between 10am and 4pm Monday - Friday. (I'm calling for mine today - and I'll be looking for my book on forensic medicine that I have secreted away somewhere in the bookshelf. Well, it can be a fascinating subject!)

Name game

Today mark's the 72nd anniversary of the granting of US Patent 2,071,250 for "Linear Condensation Polymers". Without /it them, the nylon toothbrush (1938) would not have been possible ... because "nylon" wouldn't have been around - by that name at least. We know the patent was applied for in 1931 but the origin of the name "nylon" is unclear. Wikipedia carries a couple of theories including that if inventor Wallace Carothers had his way it would have been called "No-Run" (which is how cartoon dog Scooby-Doo might pronounce Nylon). According to the WordBook and SlovoEd dictionaries the word Nylon was coined in 1938 - the year following Carother's (lemon juice and potassium cyanide) death following a lifetime of depression and a belief that he had no ideas left (according to Wikipedia). Carothers had earlier invented neoprene - as found in wet suits and laptop pouches.
But back to nylon: on another website (PBS) it's suggested that nylon was patented in 1935 before hitting the market in 1939 - which just goes to show, you can't be sure who to believe on the internet. As they say ... hours of fun.

Friday, February 13, 2009

No comment

I wasn't aware that there was a Gizmodo Australia site until earlier this week; and was excited because here was a place to go for home-grown comment. Of course, you have to take the following into account, as quoted from the site: Gizmodo Australia moderates comments to avoid spam and abuse. We're looking for comments that are interesting, substantial and/or highly amusing. (My emphasis - but only because it's scared me off!)

Two sides

It seemed like a nice enough story and one that I thought I would read because it screamed "good news". The NY Times story "A Ring, a Grate and a Rescue" told of a "blogger ... thrilled after workers retrieved her college class ring, which appeared to be lost in Time Squares." I'd read about it on an RSS feed so went to find the actual story for the full details - except I didn't have the URL so I Googled the blogger, Jean J. Hsu, saw a link to her blog and thought I'd check it out there. It would have been better to stick with the original plan - because on her blog, Essential Luxuries, Ms Hsu tells how she is less than impressed with the NY Times piece and the reaction to it, and to her original blog about the incident. Not quite the "good news" story I was looking for but quite an interesting look at human nature.

Chinese food for thought

It could just be one of those stories that circulate on the internet and are better suited to the urban legend site but I couldn't find this story there when I checked just now. There are allegedly 40 "death buses" currently operating in China, replacing firing squads as the preferred execution method. They've been in use since 2004 and as well as carrying out the execution by lethal injection, and streaming video of the death to watching officials, it's rumoured that the execution buses facilitate the harvest and sale of organ - a criticism that was levelled soon after the buses began operation. USAToday carried the story back in June 2006 so I'm not quite sure why it's been posted as on the Gizmodo site this week, referring to the "new" buses.

Ipso facto not exacto

It's nice to have "facts" at your fingertips thanks to the internet - but it can propagate mis-information. Case in point: the correct name of the new German minister of economic affairs - Mr. von und zu Guttenberg. His full name is Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. All good so far, except at some point before he was appointed, someone changed his Wikipedia entry to add the name Wilhelm (between Philipp and Franz). When German and other media reported his appointment Wikipedia was among sources checked, so the incorrect full name was used in some cases. Meanwhile, back at Wikipedia, the change was reverted, and the call went out for a check on what Mr von und zu Guttenberg's correct name was. This shouldn't have been a problem - facts at fingertips remember - unless you're checking with one of the media outlets that had picked up the incorrect name from the Wikipedia entry. So, says an article in SlashDot, the circle was closed: Wikipedia states a false fact, a reputable media outlet copies the false fact, and this outlet is then used as the source to prove the false fact to Wikipedia. And thus it would be easy to slip into the mis-information age aka ipso facto not exacto.

R&D suffers

Microsoft was recently awarded its 10,000th patent so you think people would be happy to be invest in a company that places such a high premium on innovation. Not so much. SlashDot reports that Microsoft shareholders are cross that the company is spending billions of dollars annually on "pointless" R&D - when Apple is making the same revenue gains with one-tenth the spend on research. Not sure how the news that the entire Flight Simulator development team at Microsoft being let go will be received by them. Meanwhile, over at Sega, the development budget has been slashed by 20% and other cost-cutting measures are being put in place.
Of course, you have to wonder if all R&D and innovation is worthwhile. Designer Steve Lee has come up with what he calls the "most pretentious keyboard in existence ... but it's damn nice looking" ie he's taken to a new Apple keyboard with a can of paint so he has a completely white keyboard with some character but no characters. Probably works best if you're a touch typist (as he is).


Browsing the job ads this morning I came across this one "Driver MR/Chicken Catcher". The successful applicant will be an "experienced chicken catcher with MR licence required to drive crew truck and catch chickens at farms, 5 nights per week". What exactly does a chicken catcher do? According to an article in Brisbane's The Courier Mail last year, chicken catchers catch barn chickens which are then sent to the abattoir. It is a disappearing art and good chicken catchers are apparently hard to find; so much so that mechanical chicken catchers have been developed - first the chicken vacuum which was discontinued after protests from animal rights groups, and now another, which sweeps the chickens onto a metal ramp and whisks them along a conveyor belt to cages. Chicken catching happens at night and a good chicken catcher can apparently make up to $80,000 a year. Who knew?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Time's up for Palm OS

Word on the Engadget site is that Palm has decided to concentrate on webOS and Windows Mobile rather than furthering the Palm Operating System (OS). It's a shame because this was the OS that converted me to PDAs and hand-held computing. For once, here was a system where you could have your information saved automatically when you switched between applications; here was a system where you could write on screen and have your handwriting (as long as it conformed to Palm's Graffiti system) converted to text. It will be missed.

iPod for books

Amazon has announced the new version of its electronic book reader aka Kindle 2. In reporting its release, BBC Online said “The increased storage capacity brings Kindle closer to the idea of being an iPod for books.” Of course, you could just invest in an iPod for books – aka the iPod Touch, although the iPhone has the same capability. Sure, the screen’s a little smaller than the Kindle’s, but it’s got loads more memory, comes in colour, and lets you run other applications on it as well. Also, chances are you can wander into most stores and pick one up today rather than having to wait (and some suggest, wait and wait) for Kindle delivery. One drawback though: you won’t get access to the Kindle-exclusive Stephen King-offering which reportedly features a … Kindle. And did I mention the Kindle 2 (2GB) costs US$359; the iPod Touch (16GB) US$299 or (32GB) US$399. (I've quoted US dollar prices since I'm not sure when the Kindle 2 will be available outside the US.)
And to be fair, I'd better mention something else: the Kindle 2 has introduced text to speech - so you'd also get a kind of talking book too - although it wouldn't be anything like a human voice reading to you. The US Writers/Authors Guild is upset about this, claiming that owning a Kindle doesn't give you the right to read a book out loud - that's an audio right (which probably costs extra!).

Concerns both grave and acute

In a moment of frivolity, I was transcribing a passage from the book "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" to send a pal from BookClub and realized that I had no idea where to find accents on the computer keyboard to put the accent on some French. I checked the MS Word help function, the on-screen keyboard, the internet etc etc without luck (ALT+something or other didn't work) until finally I realised that all I needed to do was copy one from somewhere else on the web and paste it in. Voilà: é


Stephanie Meyer (not that one ie the Twilight Series) has taken self-help to a new level by delivering her own baby in the car on the way to hospital. Formerly an emergency doctor with The Gold Coast Hospital, the now GP Meyer had expected a longer labour - based on a 23-hour labour with her first child, Caleb. Not so ... on the 5-minute drive to the hospital, she had her husband pull over to the side of the road so she could deliver the as-yet-unnamed baby boy. Once delivered, her husband helped by loosening the umbilical cord from around the child's neck and they continued to hospital - before returning home 3 hours later.

Poor timing

The Snake cartoon in today's The Daily Telegraph has two panels. The first shows two crocodiles, mostly submerged in water: Croc #1: "Have you ever been married", Croc #2: "Nar, but I like kids!". In the second panel Croc #2 continues: "But I don't think I could eat a whole one". The timing is unfortunate as only last week in northern Queensland, a 5-year-old boy disappeared from a river bank, presumed taken by a crocodile as his 7-year-old brother watched on. A report I read yesterday suggested the crocodile had originally lunged toward the older brother, but the younger one had jumped in front of his sibling, trying to distract the crocodile. Other reports suggest the 5-year-old followed his dog into the river and was taken then. The search for the boy continues.

Birthday greetings

Today marks the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, "evolution by natural selection" theoriser, as published in 1859 in On The Origin of Species. But what gave him the idea? In a new book, Darwin's Sacred Cause, co-authors Adrian Desmond and James Moore argue that Charles Darwin was motivated by a loathing of slavery, and the desire to see its abolition , perhaps fueled by the cruelties he witnessed on his travels. A BBC article on the book can be found here and it also includes a link to an interview with the authors.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I am extremely ... surprised

Gizmodo today carried an article about Google search capabilities. If you go in Google in Firefox and type "I am extremely ........." with ......... being the condition you want to search - Google will return the numbers. So, I went in to have a look - not believing that there could be 4,750,000 pages with "extremely depressed". Nope .... by the time I got there it was 4,480,000. Tired had dropped from 12,300,000 to 8,530,000; and there were 14,000,000 results for happy - which I'm still pondering since they were running at 769,000 with the Gizmodo results. Hmmmm. Between the searches, extremely terrified of Chinese people had dropped from 303,000 to 85,600. Why is it so?

Not 1984

Lynne Brindley, CEO of the British Library, is concerned that our memories are being erased - website by website. As an example, when President-Elect Barack Obama took office, all references to former President Bush were erased from the White House website. Another? Many websites for the 2000 Sydney Olympics disappeared as soon as the Games were over.
SlashDot reports Ms Brindley sees the British Library's role, and that of other similar institutions, as being responsible for preserving "history" including websites - the same way hard-copy print works are preserved. So, the British Library plans to create a comprehensive archive of material from the 8M .uk domain websites, as well as collecting and archiving material relating to the London 2012 Olympics.

Time please

It's not often I read a review of time management books that's entertainng, funny and informative - but Chris Hardwick has managed to combine all three in his recent Wired offering "Diary of a Self-Help Dropout: Flirting With the 4-Hour Workweek". In it he reviews books by three time management gurus by trying their systems out. Excellent work and well worth a read.

Star talk

Tired of using your unexciting headset for internet calls? This may only appeal to Trekkies but a new Skype/VOIP phone has hit the market. It looks like one of the original StarTrek communicators - and if you can't remember what they look like (and you call yourself a Trekkie?) you'll be able to check it out when StarTrek the Original series is launched on Blu-Ray on April 30. If you can't wait that long, follow the link to the Engadget story which has a pic.
The good news is that the USB-powered "phone" comes complete with Velcro backing so, when you're not using it, you can position it in a prominent place for passers-by to see and admire.
And on the subject of StarTrek, it seems that Gene Roddenberry and his recently-deceased wife Majel Barrett (a crew member of the original Enterprise; the voice of the Enterprise in later incarnations; and Counseller Troi's mother in StarTrek: The Next Generation; and cast in other Roddenberry works eg Earth: The Final Conflict) will soon be blasting off into orbit - hopefully never to return. Their ashes will be sent far enough into space so they will not fall back to earth, the way Gene's did the last time he = and I think Scotty as well - was sent off.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Hearts and Harlequins

As a special Valentine's Day offering, Fictionwise - the eBook company where I obtain digital content - is offering, among other things, 15 free Harlequin titles.  Normally I would jump at the chance of free books but I'm just not sure I can reconcile myself to what I regard as such blatantly romantic content.  Will there be a storyline besides person meets person? Or am I confusing this with Mills & Boon (do they still exist - and are they still colour-coded based on degree of steaminess?).  Will I permit myself to be swayed by their blurb?  Would you?  From Regencies to vampires, from sexy suspense to heartwarming reads, Harlequin has a romance for every mood and every heart!
Still it does represent an opportunity for people who want to give eReading a go the opportunity to try other content than the free eBooks Fictionwise usually has on site.  
This being said, I am enjoying the girl meets vampire tale I recently downloaded ie Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Cube solver

A couple of weeks ago there was news of a man who had finally solved Rubik's Cube - 27 or so years after he started working on it. That's a long time to persist with something and he was probably very pleased to finally cross this off his "to do" list. Hopefully he also made time to concentrate on "life" as well during that time - because much can happen in over a quarter of a century. For anyone taking up the task today and not opposed to seeking a hint or two along the way, a program for helping solve the puzzle of this colourful cube is available for purchase for use with your iPhone or iPod Touch from Apple's iTunes Application Store.

Troubled times

Things must be bad on the economic front - word is that Google has reported its first-ever drop in quarterly profit. But the other word is that they are faring much better than expected in the "economic storm". (Source: Topix Computers)