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Open Rights Group : 2 years on November 20, 2007

Posted by mark in : Culture, DRM, General, Privacy , add a comment

Today, ORG published a review of activities since it ‘began’ in July 2005. Linked from the ORG site, it’s also covered by Danny O’Brien and Suw Charman on their blogs, and Becky Hogge on the Guardian’s “Comment is free“.

Disclosure : I signed the pledge on 27/7/05, after Tom Coates covered it. And the standing order started 7/2/06 :)

OpenMoko July 9, 2007

Posted by mark in : Device, Telecoms, Wireless , add a comment

Today saw a publicity launch for the first device from the open source mobile handset project, OpenMoko. It’ll first be targeted at developers, with a mass market version (including Wifi and 3D accelerometers) planned at the end of the year.

Slim(ish), flat and sans-keyboard, the Neo1973 shares a few design cues with the Apple iPhone, but isn’t as pretty to look at. Crucially, though, it’s open to developers and not tied to a specific cellular operator.

After Palm (yet again) delayed the launch of its Linux-based Treo, it’s good to see some progress being made here. Another hackable Linux-based phone is already available in France (from Wistron, another Taiwanese ODM), but this looks much more interesting.

Bristol baseball June 22, 2007

Posted by mark in : General, Personal , add a comment

Heard today that a baseball team has started practicing on the Downs – 1pm, Sundays, by the Water Tower – and hoping to get a proper pitch and games. No website that I know of, and no mention on BaseballSoftballUK.com yet. I plan to go along this Sunday (and I’m told that anyone’s welcome).

In the 90’s I played a few games for Crewkerne Cutters (initially at 3rd base, then shortstop and relief pitcher), coached by Patrick Carroll. The SW League folded the following year, but I think there were half a dozen teams, from Taunton, Plymouth, somewhere near Bristol (Yate?), etc. And I think that’s the last time ‘Bristol’ had a baseball team.

Climbing Works Bristol June 18, 2007

Posted by mark in : Climbing, Event , add a comment

“The World’s biggest and best dedicated bouldering centre” : Opening at the start of November 2007 in Bedminster, Bristol, UK.

[webpage]["before" picture][UKC forum comments]

Whatever grade you climb at you will find 40 problems that you can climb easily and then at least 40 more for you to work on!

Broadband problems May 20, 2007

Posted by mark in : General, Networks, Personal, Telecoms , add a comment

Finally got home DSL service again, after more than 3 weeks, now that my ISP’s fixed the fault (or, rather, taken more than 2 weeks to ask BT to fix it). D’you think that’s a long time? I think it’s a long time. Nobody’s apologised, though.

Anyway, I’ve a few articles and links that I hope to put up, later this week.

Links 2007-05-04 May 4, 2007

Posted by mark in : Application, General, HTML, Photo, Web , add a comment

Links 2007-05-03 May 3, 2007

Posted by mark in : Culture, General, Geo, Networks, Web , add a comment

Links 2007-04-26 April 26, 2007

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Nokia N95 – some issues April 25, 2007

Posted by mark in : Device, Geo, Telecoms, VoIP, Wireless , add a comment

Last year, I mentioned that I’d be looking for a new phone, and listed some desirable features. Nokia’s N95 looks and feels less attractive than I’d expected, but is novel at the moment in being GPS-enabled (and has a lot of other features).

GPS is a feature I’d particularly like to try, as well as some VoIP and photo applications I’ve read about over the last couple of years …to better understand the user experience, issues and other possible services and business cases. I don’t like ‘walled gardens’. (Mapperz has listed some free applications.)

Dean Bubley reports that handsets with built-in GPS were “flavour of the month” at 3GSM. Mobile Weblog reports that GPS device makers are developing mobile handsets, and a WSJ article that Nokia will use GPS (and LBS services) as a strategy to maintain its handset prices.

Issues :

Links 2007-04-24 April 24, 2007

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Links 2007-04-22 April 22, 2007

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Links 2007-04-18 April 18, 2007

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Another Reason Why YouTube Worked April 17, 2007

Posted by mark in : Video, Web , add a comment

Stephen Dubner, on the Freakonomics blog, features a post from a Google brand manager, saying that one reason why YouTube scaled successfully is because it reformed a successful team.

Almost all of the original team worked together at Paypal/eBay. As YouTube grew incredibly quickly they were able to sound the bell and keep bringing on more former colleagues. All folks who were vetted, trusted by one another, etc. Imagine the time, hiring risk and integration friction they saved — the ability to “get the band back together” was without a doubt a reason that YouTube scaled.

Skype destroying value? April 9, 2007

Posted by mark in : Application, Telecoms, VoIP , add a comment

Skype is a strategic screw-up” says Martin Geddes, and it’s an interesting (short) read, from halfway through his longer post.

I used PC-based Skype for a year or so (but not for nearly a year now), as a previous ‘employer’ kept in touch that way; but I hoped that an open standards-based protocol (SIP) would prevail.

That isn’t Martin’s point, though. It seems to be that the PC-based experience is still reasonable, but Skype should have insisted that approved handsets allow the same experience, because now the whole service has less value. (They should have added to the basic feature set, with new innovation and reliability, but they’ve missed an opportunity and gone backwards instead.)

Twitter April 1, 2007

Posted by mark in : Application, Networks, Telecoms, Ubicomp, Web, Wireless , add a comment

I’m still undecided about Twitter [blog][forums], the simple moblogging site to update friends on your current activity (or “public IM” etc, if you prefer). Its flexibility offers a ‘one size fits all’ platform for a lot of peoples’ requirements, but will the value of a larger ‘crowd’ outweigh personal compromises in other areas? It feels more like a clever hack, in the right place at the right time, than a preferred long-term solution.

In Sep?-06 I read a launch advert on Odeo, another Obvious Corp property, but didn’t ‘get’ how it differed from other group-SMS applications. Still, the buzz gradually grew, and since SXSW (Mar-07) articles are everywhere.

My page hasn’t been used since Jan-07, as friends remain disinterested after I ‘explain’ it. And I’m tired of the hype. Twitter has interesting possibilities. I don’t agree that it’s pointless or (simply) intrusive. I’ll probably find a reason to use it. But right now I’ll capture these few thoughts and links, and move on.

So why is it Twitter that captured the buzz, and became successful social software? Is it the open access – SMS, webpage and IM (though apparently not Trillian)? Is it the simple, open API for 3rd party developers? Is it the persuasive personalities of early adopters? (Is it just a niche success, talked up by a lot of US tech bloggers?) Probably all of those, at the moment.

Unlike other broadcast-SMS apps, Twitter is lightweight and already supported, so doesn’t need a (proprietary) mobile Java app. Also, PersonX on Twitter doesn’t broadcast directly to a group : she sends to a PersonX node on the Twitter server. The significance is (1) A node could represent an event or service (for breaking news), instead of just a person, which adds functionality; (2) in the UK (etc, where sender pays), a group only pays for one SMS per broadcast (…It’s less of an issue in receiver-pays USA, where monthly cellular plans have huge SMS bundles); (3) losing a mobile doesn’t lose a person’s groups; and (4) all of the data is captured by the Twitter servers.

PersonX is also able to send a message directly to PersonY=webservice node and receive a direct reply, which adds ‘mobile’ to an existing web service, and makes Twitter more of a platform than (just) a social software app …at least until mobile web browsing is a preferred alternative.

My first (and still clearest) thought was that Twitter acts as a ‘presence’ indicator like IM does, but SMS doesn’t, and gives the security of knowing what your group/ tribe is doing by continuous partial attention …and Liz Lawley [Many2Many] seems to agree. The convention of short (up to 140 characters), occasional, messages allows mobile users to participate more equally, because it doesn’t try to replace IM conversations, where mobile (SMS) users are disadvantaged by connectivity, typing speed, expense, etc. [Around the time that Twitter launched, there was discussion about whether mobile IM app's would succeed SMS, and a planned telco IM platform (to compete with Y!M, MSN, AOL, etc).]

Displaying public conversations on a webpage attracts people (see: Jakob Nielsen’s 90-9-1 rule), even if they don’t post, or belong to groups; and it keeps a history (public or private). The website is the heart of the application. But posting is shown to be easy, because it’s short and doesn’t NEED to say anything clever, and so the initial hurdle is low (but the reason to continue is usually your group). Group-forming is easy and Reed’s Law says it has the potential to add huge value to a network (so should Twitter encourage it more, by adding an option to post to sub-groups of your contacts?); and a reluctance to allow it is one of many reasons given for Friendster surrendering its lead.

Lots of users, groups and posts means a lot of metadata, and the open API allows 3rd parties to repackage it …to add value, to offer different data visualisation tools, or simply to display interesting usage patterns.

Twitter [Jason Kottke]
Newbie’s guide to Twitter” [Webware]
A Twitter primer [theory.isthereason]
Dodgeball vs. Twitter” [TechCrunch]
Twitter commands [Twitter.com]
Six ways to improve Twitter” [Webware]
Twittering your home” [O'Reilly]
Twitter Fan Wiki …for widgets, etc
twittervision [via O'Reilly and Google Maps Mania]
Twitterbar extension [Flock]
Twapper [via Lifehacker]

Update: Origin of the Twitter idea [via Jason Kottke]

“Ease of use and simplicity for the user” February 15, 2007

Posted by mark in : Design, Telecoms, VoIP, Wireless , add a comment

(Alcatel-Lucent CEO) Pat Russo’s recent interview with the FT struck a chord :

What would you most love to see?

I’d love to see the communications industry tackle ease of use and simplicity for the user. Phones are actually getting more complex.

It’s been said many times before, and reminded me of a quote on Dave Farber’s IP list :

I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone — Bjarne Stronstrup (originator of C++ programming language)

AuPix blog February 14, 2007

Posted by mark in : Personal, Telecoms, Video, VoIP , add a comment

AuPix (my day job) started a blog recently, and I may post there occasionally.

Check out John’s posts, once he gets started properly, for insights from a ‘veteran‘ of the video telephony industry.

Long live the real Internet on mobiles February 13, 2007

Posted by mark in : Telecoms, Web, Wireless , add a comment

Word from Dean Bubley at 3GSM, that mobile operators as a whole are finally embracing the ‘real’ Internet…

…Everything else is about taking the real Internet onto mobile (there isn’t, nor ever has been, nor ever will be, a “mobile Internet”).

…is good news for those who support standards-based website design and dislike walled gardens.

Clockwork Orange update February 13, 2007

Posted by mark in : Football, Personal , add a comment

Just back from 5-a-side in the rain, and collecting bruises! Since I last played, we’ve dropped to Divi 4 (of 10), and the pitches have been relaid with rubber granules. I’ve shed them all over the house, but better that than the astro ‘burns’ I got from sand.

Result was 8-8, and I got 2. One, a lovely chip over the keeper. The other bounced off me!

Firefox 3: Support for offline web apps February 12, 2007

Posted by mark in : Calendar, General, Web , add a comment

Apparently Firefox 3 will support offline web apps [via Jason Kottke].

Maybe (with the right ‘add-ons’) it’ll help synchronise my various calendars, without retyping (or needing MS Outlook/ an Apple Mac)?

iScrybe’s offline capabilities sounded interesting in Oct-06, but I didn’t get a beta invite and would rather not be tied to a single company’s app.