What to do with this site

I really need to figure out what I am doing with the site here. I want to post, but every time I look at the place the broken formatting bugs me. And unfortunately with the way my life is at the moment (moving back into house in one part of Dublin, trying to rent out another, buying a car, expecting child 2 in a few weeks, searching for a new job) I just don’t have the time to devote to this.

Maybe next week if/when I get my PC out of storage I will just blitz the theme back to some sort of minimalist canned template. I mean fundamentally all I want are:

  • A single custom photo
  • My quote rotator
  • A search box
  • The calender/archive list of articles.

A keyword/tag cloud, and some meta links are nice to haves.

That’s all not too difficult really is it? And once I have that in place then I can get back to ranting and raving, and explaining how I could run the world sooooo much better than everyone else.

Still not quite there

Dammit, I have most of my theme (Aquarium) working again, but I can’t get the widgets in the side bar to update. Not sure what is happening.

I’d rather not have to go back to the start and rebuild the blasted thing.

My perfect gadget?

I had a tweet about a device I want, but can’t have earlier today:

I want a tablet computer with 3G connection pen input sunlight viewable screen and week long battery life for less than €300

I thought I should expand on that a bit. I have a desktop PC at home, a laptop for work, a netbook for the sitting room, and an android phone. That is probably too many gadgets already. But each fits nicely in it’s niche. I do travel a lot though, and I spend my time on trams, planes, buses and waiting in terminals reading magazines and books. It isn’t practical to haul the laptop out for email, rss, twitter, or casual web surfing so I use the phone, but the screen is a bit small for comfort. So I would want a device that functions as an e-reader, can view and respond to email, and has a web browser. But it has to be bigger than a phone, and less bulky than a laptop, and it has to have built in 3G as who wants a dongle, or to be tied to WiFi islands?

Why a tablet, and what size of one? At my desk I have my laptop. There is no argument that the keyboard is the fastest and most efficient way to enter data. But I also have a Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch tablet (250mm x 175mm). That is invaluable for making notes when I have one hand on the phone, for annotating Power Point slides, and for sketching out diagrams. Rather than paper, I use it for all my notes together with software that allows me to search my scrawls electronically. I started using it about 3 months ago and you would have a fight to take it off me now. The only place it isn’t used is in meetings. There the bulk of the laptop acts as a barrier between you and others, it looks odd, and carrying two devices is not convenient. Instead I have a Paperblanks notebook that is 130mm by 230mm, about the size of a DVD case. Important stuff gets transcribed into the laptop via the tablet after the meeting.

A proper tablet PC would merge the two functions of being a full computer with the option of pen input, but that isn’t an option that work offers me. And the size and bulk would still be a bit of a nuisance to haul out on a tram. Instead I would want something about the size and weight of my Paperblanks notebook (or the Wacom tablet), and would weigh less than 500g. It needs to have pen input, as that is the best way to enter data one handed. One handed typing just isn’t a runner, and I stopped writing with my fingers when I was in infants. Software wise it should automatically sync my handwritten notes on my main machine.

The other key features, are a screen that is really visible without difficulty in bright daylight, so no the iPad will not cut it. And it needs to have a stonking battery life. If I am away somewhere for a couple of weeks I don’t want to worry about charging it if I am taking things easy on wireless usage. My ideal price point for such a magical device is about €300, as it is meant to be a supplement to all my other gadgets.

Does it exist? Of course not. But maybe in 5 years it will. The problem then is what do you do if you don’t have the ideal device? What sort of compromises should you be willing to make. After my post today I did some checking on the Amazon Kindle or the Sony Reader Touch. Depending on the version and how I got it (*cough* direct from the US without paying tax) they would be between €100 and €200. The Kindle lets say ticks a lot of the boxes, being right on size, battery life, weight, screen readability and it would even offer some of the web functionality I want, but…

It isn’t in colour, and it certainly doesn’t do pen input. The latter is a real mystery. I helped launch pen input tablet PCs for Microsoft 10 years ago. The technology has been there for a decade in high end devices, and in the likes of the Palm and Sony Ericsson phones at the middle and low too. But in the rush to launch tablets and iPad wannabes no one is going for the killer function of the pen! The other big problem with the eReaders is the whole DRM mess. Whenever I meet a person raving about eReaders I have a run a little conversation with them which usually goes like this:

SK: So read anything good recently?
eReader Supporter: Yeah, I just finished such_and_such.
SK: Oh right, I heard that is good. Could you lend it to me?
eReader Supporter: ehhhh

Books by their nature, tradition, and purpose are to be shared. But the DRM restrictions applied to them means the “rights” getting protected are not those of the purchasers and readers. My worry is that by giving my money to the likes of Amazon or Sony for these devices I am effectively backing their strategies.

Now I have seen there is software like Calibre for scraping files and making them into ebooks (perfect for the Irish Times or The Economist), and there is even a eBook lending library in Dublin. But if I buy a shelf of real books they remain mine even if I drop my eReader under a bus or the company that sold it to me goes bust, and I can lend them or resell them legally. Not so with ebooks and that is a major restriction to buying them.

You might have noticed I didn’t whinge about the price of ebooks. That’s because I read this good article from Charlie Stross on the industry.

For now, I need to go away and have a think. Is 2nd best good enough?

Funnily enough on the tram home, as I was thinking about all of this I noticed the guy opposite me was reading from an Amazon Kindle. If I was the supersititious, fate believing kind I would have said it was a sign. I just thought it was an amusing coincidence :)

What gets your traffic

It must be because it is election season, but a post of mine from July 2009 is getting a lot of traffic these days. Back then I was having a rant about Dun Laoghaire and Richard Boyd Barett of the socialst workers party people before profit alliance. It got a few comments at the time. and then I thought little of it. Except the comments kept coming in. One in January last year, another in May, two in July, and now 17 since December. I was wondering what was driving all the traffic so I did a little googling.

On the 25th of January I was the 6th item on the list for RBB. I checked again this morning and I am up to second place, after Wikipedia, and right before his website. There it is, the screaming headline that RBB “is an enemy of the people”. It’s an accidental google bomb. Although I still stand over my sentiments at the time. And if you re-read the article you will see that I was right about the Carlisle pier not being demolished, and Stena have not bought Dun Laoghaire harbour, as dumb an idea as you will ever hear outside of a meeting for people thrown out of a conspiracy theory conference for being too weird.

I am happy to see the comments and the discussion. As long as people are not shilling for some products, or being personally abusive I am don’t mind providing this forum to all takers, whether I agree with their views or not. Although I reserve the right to give abuse to, and delete posts from people using txt spk which I think is a sign of laziness.

I do have another post that continues to attract traffic years after it went up – Holy shit, would you look at the size of that thing! from August 2006. That one was about a big spider I found in the house in Shankill. It has 37 comments and is number three in google if you search for “Giant Spider Ireland”. Surprisingly I don’t appear under “big spider ireland” so I guess people feel my example of Tegeneria Gigantea was on the massive side of big.

QR Codes

My first QR Code

My first QR code.

Silly Seamus, I never realised that QR codes could be used for more than just URLs. They also allow you to store up to 4300 characters of text as well . So this is my first self generated QR code (using the help of this site).

Covering your digital tracks

Watching the finale of the first season of Mad Men last night (Laura and I get our best TV by DVD) I was thinking about how difficult it would be to conceal an affair from your spouse in this day and age. It helps that people have their own phones, but email, social networking sites and the like provide so many more ways to get caught it you are not careful. It isn’t enough that you have to cover your own tracks, you also have to worry about what the other person is doing on the very public Internet (looking at that story it always surprises me how many people make so much of their Facebook profiles public).

If you want to keep your wife and girlfriend from discovering each other you will have to do a bit more work. For starters you are going to need a new email address, and a second mobile phone. The first is easy, but be sure to clear the browser history after you look at it to cover your tracks. The second phone is a little more difficult as there is a cost issue, and you need to keep the “cheating” phone hidden. Apparently Nokias are the preferred phones for cheaters.

When if comes to Facebook and the like, you can probably claim “I am not on it”, but it would look a little odd if you ask your new girlfriend not to mention your name, or put a photograph of you on the site in case it turns up in someone else’s search. And how do you conceal your existing profile and relationship with your wife?

All this means you now have a new set of suspicious behaviours for your spouse to look out for, apart from the traditional overnights at the office, strange perfume smells, and lipstick on the collar (a sign of a kisser who need to sober up, or get better contact lenses).

My advice then for a spouse worried they are being cuckolded is to watch for their significant other deleting their Facebook profile pictures, changing their privacy settings to be more restrictive, or just deleting their profile. They may also set their browser to automatically clear the history and cache on exit. Be alert for signs they have a new mobile phone, and check if they have changed the password on their email account recently (Laura and I know each other’s email passwords *smug*).

Of course if the cheater and the person they are cheating with know the affair is illicit then it becomes much easier. Until such time of course as one party discovers that the other will not leave their spouse as they promised*. Then you have a whole range of options for digital bunny boiling. Maybe I will make that my next post…

* I have never really understood the appeal to a woman of having an affair with a married man. If he has betrayed one woman (his current wife) he can betray another.

Turning to Google for advice

Google's advice on hiding

Turning to Google for advice on hiding.

I understand people often turn to the Internet and Google to suggestions and advice. But if you are worried about “where should I hide the bodies” it is worth remembering that they record the details of all searches, and searchers.

I am on the twitter

I know I said this wouldn’t happen. But you can find me now on The Twitter. Look for 101001101001011. There should have been a leading 0 there, but Twitter crops your user name.

The Cull

Going on holidays helps you to put your things into perspective. Take RSS feeds. I was checking a computer only every few days when I was on holiday, so Google Reader soon was registering 1000+ unread items. I had to prioritise my reading and “Mary all as Unread” the rest. Now I am back I decided to take stock and cull a few feeds. Who is getting the chop on this round of sliabh downsizing? Two big ones to be told to put their stuff in a cardboard box are BoingBoing and Wired.

BoingBoing just bores me. Too much is just promo material for Cory Doctorow’s books, I really don’t like some of their guest bloggers (like the guy raving about crop circles recently), and most of what remains I can get from other sites. So for that reason **chop** BoingBoing gets pink slipped.

Then there is Wired. A lot of people believe if you are in the tech business you have to follow what is coming up in Wired. They spot the trends, they shape people’s minds. Maybe, but it’s just a shame they are almost totally blind to what is happening outside the US, they seem to be on Steve Jobs payroll when it comes to promoting Apple products, and frankly their correspondents don’t know their arses from their elbows when it comes to mobile technology.

Take this article on “Why you can’t get a good phone with Verizon“. Their take:

“Verizon’s extremely conservative approach to new handsets, the company’s long and rigorous testing procedures, and its emphasis on the network rather than the phone have created a portfolio that’s a complete buzzkill, say experts.”

The author then rambles off about handsets without mentioning the elephant in the room (obvious to anyone who actually works in the mobile industry) – Verizon’s network is CDMA. This is the runner up technology for mobiles. Back in 2008 it was down to 0.8% of handsets globally. That creates an economy of scale problem for manufacturers. Why spend money porting your fancy new handsets to a niche technology when you will never make the money back? That’s the real reason phone choice is poor with Verizon. It’s also why US Apple fans can wish for it all they want, but the iPhone is highly unlikely to ever work with the current Sprint or Verizon networks (both of which are CDMA).

That is not the only poor Wired example though. Take this one – “Why isn’t wireless net Access available everywhere” which credits the iPhone with driving the build out of mobile data networks. Bzzzzt. Wrong. The volume of data traffic due to mobile broadband is 5 times that from smart phones. That more than anything else is what is driving the growth in this area.

So wired raises my blood pressure regularly, and the rest of the time I only see something to interest me about once a week. For that reason they are “Tired” and take the drop into the pit full of snakes as well.

I don’t think I will miss either of them. And slashdot, you are on probation.