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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 :)

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.

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

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Links 2007-05-03 May 3, 2007

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Links 2007-04-24 April 24, 2007

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Links 2007-04-18 April 18, 2007

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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.

37signals: Highrise, not Sunrise February 12, 2007

Posted by mark in : General, Web , 1 comment so far

Finally, a release date is in sight (but not for a few weeks) for Highrise, 37signals’ web-based CRM/ address book (previously named Sunrise). It’s been expected for a long time.

Update: Preview 2: Highrise permissions and groups
Update: Preview 3: Highrise welcome and workspace tabs
Update: Preview 4: Adding people to Highrise and dealing with duplicates
Update: Preview 5: Highrise tasks
Update: Preview 6: Highrise people, companies, and the dashboard
Update: Preview 7: Highrise plays well with email
Update: Preview 8: Highrise Cases

UK : Conservative government would scrap ID cards February 6, 2007

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

Via the Open Rights Group :

David Davis has written to Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, giving formal notice that an incoming Conservative administration would scrap the Government’s costly ID card project.

…and it links to a list of (Conservative Party) reasons why ID cards aren’t a good idea

Video games – ‘moral panic’? January 25, 2007

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

This week’s Economist editorial (subscription required) is the subject of an article at “Communities Dominate Brands”, both putting the ‘popular media’ dislike of ‘violent’ video games in a proper historical context. For example…

They poison the mind and corrupt the morals of the young, who waste their time sitting on sofas immersed in dangerous fantasy worlds. That, at least was the charge levelled against novels during the 18th century by critics worried about the impact of a new medium on young people.

Steven Johnson covered this theme many times, in media discussions about his book “Everything Bad Is Good For You”. His open letter to Hillary Clinton (Jul-05) is no longer available at the L.A. Times site, but I referenced part of it in a strategy paper (Jan-06); and I think it reinforces the point.

Your current concern is over explicit sex in “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” Yet there’s not much to investigate, is there? It should get rated appropriately, and that’s that. But there’s more to your proposed study: You want to examine how video games shape children’s values and cognitive development.

The great secret of today’s video games that has been lost in the moral panic over “Grand Theft Auto” is how difficult the games have become. That difficulty is not merely a question of hand-eye coordination; most of today’s games force kids to learn complex rule systems, master challenging new interfaces, follow dozens of shifting variables in real time and prioritize between multiple objectives. In short, precisely the sorts of skills that they’re going to need in the digital workplace of tomorrow.

Math SAT scores have never been higher; verbal scores have been climbing steadily for the last five years; nearly every indicator in the Department of Education study known as the Nation’s Report Card is higher now than when the study was implemented in 1971. The last 10 years have seen the most dramatic drop in violent crime in recent memory and the national carjacking rate has dropped substantially since “Grand Theft Auto” came out.

Alcatel-Lucent logo December 20, 2006

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

What a shame that the old red Lucent logo is being retired. The “Infinity” branding of the new merged company looks pleasant enough, but just doesn’t have the same ‘class’. And it makes me think of a drug/ biotech company.

Early days yet, though. Plus I’m biased : I was at Lucent for nearly 7 of its 10 years, and always liked the logo.

…[via Design Observer]

Trustguide : UK civilians on ‘cyber trust’ November 13, 2006

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

The Open Rights Group discusses the 101 page Trustguide report on ‘our’ “views, beliefs and needs regarding trust, security and privacy in relation to new technologies” (eg. ID cards). It’s based on 29 workshops in the South West, Wales and London, hosted by HP and BT, in conjunction with the DTI.

In the interests of informed debate, I was encouraged (and surprised, comparing it to Radio 5 Live call-ins), that people had asked :

  1. whether a given ’solution’ can actually solve the stated problem;
  2. whether it is the best solution (eg. at that $price); and
  3. whether it is worth the possible ‘knock-on’ costs (to society and law, of reducing trust and personal freedom).

On a more ‘frivolous’ note, this also gives me a place to post the URI to the (old) “Gilbert and Sullivan” on ID cards video [initially found via plasticbag.org].

Was Skype a good purchase for eBay? November 13, 2006

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

The International Herald Tribune has a seemingly balanced article, that sees benefits, but doubts that the price will be justified. That’s not a new view, nor a proven one, but the article has an interesting update of the situation, a year or so in.

Further commentary on Andy Abramson’s blog.

Strange Maps November 7, 2006

Posted by mark in : Design, General, Geo , add a comment

The Strange Maps blog [via Platial] has a whole load of unusual and interesting maps, often with an historical element.

eg. The Manhattan Neighbourhoods map and general feel of the site made me think of Maira Kalman’s “New Yorkistancover, (which I was pointed at recently, but can’t remember by who).

The Information Factories (Cloudware) November 6, 2006

Posted by mark in : Design, General, Networks , add a comment

George Gilder’s article in Wired magazine describes how the cloud computing model (ie. servers ’somewhere on the Internet’) moves processing away from the desktop to massive server farms (Google, etc). It mentions historic quotes “The network is the computer” (Sun) and “global computing market of five mainframes” (IBM) and some interesting numbers.

In every era, the winning companies are those that waste what is abundant – as signalled by precipitously declining prices – in order to save what is scarce. Google has been profligate with the surfeits of data storage and backbone bandwidth. Conversely, it has been parsimonious with that most precious of resources, users’ patience.

Unfortunately that strategy means massive energy cost/waste (cooling, replication), and few locations will be able to provide enough (cheap) electricity as the need scales up. Fortunately “semiconductor and optical technologies are on the verge of a new leap forward” and the current economic advantages of a ‘centralised’ solution will decrease.

SETsquared November 4, 2006

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After a brief interview (yesterday), I’ve joined the SETsquared support community, to help accelerate hi-tech startups at the University of Bristol centre.

I offered one day a month (unpaid), but they have enough mentors already, so I’m most likely to be involved on occasional review panels.

From Palm to iCalendar : Part III October 20, 2006

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

In Part I, I moved my data from Palm Desktop to a .csv file, via Microsoft Outlook. In Part II, I found that it was a mess when imported into Mozilla Lightning, and looked at other options to get my data into iCalendar form. Now I’ve tried AirSet and Google Calendar…

AirSet : I downloaded the tool and synchronised with Palm Desktop. It was simple, took only a minute or so, and the events looked correct. I’d have put up with the small niggles that (1) all events were in the same Group, despite me creating [Business] and [Personal] Groups (and Unfiled) as suggested; and (2) the sync changed items in Palm Desktop from Unfiled –> Personal. However…

“Completed Synchronization : Desktop calendar events over 12 months old have been skipped in this transfer. These events remain on your desktop, but will not be available in AirSet.” …etc.

So, an interesting diversion, but not a solution.

Google Calendar (GCal) : The import process was simple, but repeatedly generated a server error message of “temporarily unavailable”. Overcame this by creating several smaller .csv files instead (ie. exporting from MS Outlook, one year at a time), and imported the first few files without problems. However, then came the message…

“Processed 1194 events. Successfully imported 1160 events”

…and files after that had their events processed but not imported. I didn’t get any help from Google Groups; and when trying to delete current/future events, to make space to complete a year, repeatedly got the message…

“Error : Server failure. Try again later”

After 4 days, occasionally able to delete an event, I gave up and deleted the whole calendar (dustbin icon). The re-import went smoothly, every “processed” event was also “imported”, and all looked ok. However, I’ve noticed that some items in Palm Desktop are missing from GCal (even though they were in Outlook and .csv). eg. For 1998 I had “Processed 392 events. Successfully imported 392 events”; and I’ve had to manually input 139 events. There was no obvious pattern.

Events are also missing from (at least) 1999, so it’ll take me a couple of weeks to complete my conversion; but the end is in sight! It’s been a long and frustrating process, and the easy alternative would have been to leave my calendar in Outlook, and hope that better tools exist in future. Anyway, I’m happy that I’ve got my data into iCalendar format, and hope it’ll last for a while!

Next steps will be to figure out how to keep my Treo handset ‘in sync’ easily (or not to bother), and whether I should have my primary calendar offline. Meanwhile, here’s an explanation of how to export iCalendar data from GCal to somewhere else, or how to set up a feed if you want GCal to remain your primary calendar

From Palm to iCalendar : Part II October 13, 2006

Posted by mark in : Calendar, General, Personal , 3comments

In Part I, I created a .csv file and imported it into Mozilla Lightning. The result was an unusable a mess! I recognised events, but they were duplicated many times, and showed up in dates when they shouldn’t. I couldn’t see a pattern, let alone explain it.

If the .csv file exported from Outlook has errors, I could try Outlook2vCal or Outport instead – but am reluctant, given their age. However, I didn’t see errors, with it open in Microsoft Excel, other things may be the cause.

The .csv file that I exported from Lightning (as a check) was different from the one imported into it, which isn’t a good sign. Although I’m a very happy user of Mozilla Thunderbird and Firefox, Lightning is only at version 0.3 (as is the stand-alone Mozilla Sunbird, that it is based upon), so maybe bugs within it caused the problem and I should look for another app until it improves.

30 Boxes : I’ve had an account for a while, but not really used it. Can’t log in at the moment because of a database error.

AirSet : Just found this. It offers a downloadable desktop application that will synchronise with Outlook, Pocket PC Devices, Palm Desktop, or Palm Devices …and data can be exported, as iCal. Will probably try this.

Backpack Calendar (37Signals) : I have a paid Backpack plan, a free Basecamp plan, read the Signal vs. Noise blog, may learn Ruby on Rails, and am still avidly waiting for Sunrise! So, I’m very impressed with this company, but the calendar won’t import a file unless it’s already iCalendar (and with a url).

Trumba : Think I had a free account a year or two ago, which has lapsed. No reason to choose this above others.

Google Calendar : I’ve had Gmail as a reserve email account for a while, but haven’t used the calendar. Lots of widgets get built, and there’s active coverage on Lifehacker. I’m a little concerned about my data being crawled, even anonymously, but will probably use this.

More comment when I find a solution.

From Palm to iCalendar : Part I October 13, 2006

Posted by mark in : Calendar, General, Personal , 2comments

I use Palm Desktop for my calendar and contacts. In its favour, it synchronises with my Treo handset, and isn’t Microsoft Outlook (which I’ve used before). However, I’ve wanted to move to an open data format (iCalendar) for a while …for reuse/ mashup, for stability because I’m over a size limit, and in case support for PalmOS ends.

If this was easy, Palm DT would export all the data in a single iCal/ vCal file, or the Treo would sync with a (Windows) app that supports iCal. End of story.

BUT NO, Palm DT only exports to a .dba file, (for archival) …or to vCal, one event at a time! I have 9.5 years of data, so neither is helpful. For Windows users, the only suggestion I can find is to go via Outlook …Ironic, but at least I have a copy.

So, the planned steps were :
Palm –1-> Treo –2-> Outlook –3-> .csv file –4-> ‘app’.

Palm Desktop –1-> Treo :
Sync Palm DT with Treo, as usual.

Treo –2-> Outlook :
a) Change Hotsync conduit : Start > All Programs > PalmOne > PIM Conduit Sync > Sync with Outlook. I was prompted for a file from my Treo “companion CD” : \\English\PostInstall\OutlookSwitcher.exe
b) Change Hotsync Manager, so that “Handheld overwrites Desktop” for Calendar; and Contacts, Memos and Tasks “Do Nothing”
c) Sync Treo with Outlook.

Outlook –3-> .csv file :
a) Try to export from Outlook as a “Comma Separated Value (Windows)” file : File > Import and Export… > Export to a file
b) I had a copy of the requested PRO11.MSI file, on a “MS Office Professional Edition 2003″ CD. Chose advanced customization, and then to ‘Run all Outlook “Importers and Exporters” from my PC
c) …Continued by exporting from the Calendar folder, and not mapping Custom Fields. After clicking “Finish”, I had to select the date range to be covered. The .csv file was created.

.csv file –4-> App that can export iCal :
Imported the .csv file into Mozilla Lightning.

However, there’s no happy ending (yet). More in Part II.