jump to navigation

“Down with DRM” October 20, 2006

Posted by mark in : DRM , add a comment

FreeCulture.org has announced the winners of its “Down with DRM” video contest …[via Lawrence Lessig]

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

Friends & Family 2.0 October 14, 2006

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

Interesting suggestion at Telco 2.0 : To have a far greater effect on churn, the Orange “Magic Number” offer (…$Free to call a friend that you choose) should automatically make it free for that friend to call you (as well), if you’re both Orange customers.

As it says there :

Would I dare leave Orange myself if the result was an increase in expense for many of my friends? The social pressure would greatly outweigh the financial considerations.

The cost to Orange is limited, because those on a monthly plan have largely ‘free’ voice calls anyway. (Pre-paid customers have a limited version of the offer. Can you switch?) In a couple of years, the ‘network effect‘ could mean all your calls are free, and you’d resent the fixed cost of a monthly plan for voice; but the Orange business/pricing model will have changed by then, anyway.

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.

90-9-1 rule October 11, 2006

Posted by mark in : General , 1 comment so far

Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen has a post suggesting ways that online communities can encourage more users to contribute

…starting from a rule of thumb that :

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute)
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions

Mobile IM October 9, 2006

Posted by mark in : General, Telecoms, Wireless , 2comments

Martin Geddes (-ve) and Paul Golding (+ve) have a couple of good and contrasting posts about mobile instant messaging, compared with texting (SMS)

My Treo smartphone and multiprotocol IM application give me an atypical experience …eg. My SMS conversations do have a visible chat session (and are threaded by person); and a PC client doesn’t flag up that I’m a “mobile” IM user

I hardly ever use mobile IM. My current situation seems to be :

I tried to check some of these things over the weekend, but couldn’t get my IM application to connect

Tom Peters on “House” October 6, 2006

Posted by mark in : General , add a comment

Tom Peters gives an interesting ‘assessment‘ of Hugh Laurie’s character in “House M.D.

The Ideal Business October 1, 2006

Posted by mark in : General , add a comment

Extracted from Richard Russell’s most popular article on his Dow Theory Letters website [via "The Independent"], The Ideal Business… :

  1. …sells the world, rather than a single neighborhood
  2. …offers a product with an “inelastic” demand
  3. …sells a product which cannot be easily substituted
  4. …has minimal labor requirements
  5. …enjoys low overhead
  6. …does not require big capital outlays
  7. …enjoys cash billings
  8. …is relatively free of gov’t and industry regulations
  9. …is portable or easily moveable
  10. satisfies your intellectual needs
  11. leaves you with free time
  12. …is one in which your income is not limited by your personal output (lawyers and doctors have this problem)

Review – Songbird 0.2 “Test Flight” September 30, 2006

Posted by mark in : General, Music, Review , 3comments

Songbird seems to have improved a lot since the v0.1 media player that I tried last year. It supports video and plays my FLAC music files (though doesn’t display the ‘ID3‘ info), and the memory use seems a bit more under control. More comment when v0.2 launches properly

I’d like a management tool with ratings and smart playlists, but no DRM (and I used J River Media Center, not iTunes, before I switched from MP3 to FLAC). I’ll have Squeezeboxes, so if it worked with Slimserver : great

Songbird’s networked features look interesting, but I had an app for Odeo (like iPodder) that collected podcasts for my server, so I need to view the screencast again, to see what it could really add for me

Microformats September 29, 2006

Posted by mark in : HTML , add a comment

If I understand correctly, a microformat specifies which (X)HTML tags to use for a small set of specific data (eg. name & address, or calendar events). They are simple, open standards. Humans can understand them and computers could be instructed to automatically add (just) the marked-up data into databases, for search engines or ‘mashed-up’ web services. (cf. Semantic Web)

The hCalendar format is based on iCalendar, so maybe one day I’ll be able to easily (automatically) add events from webpages to my calendar …and then ’synchronise’ my various online/offline, different vendor calendars, without needing $extra ‘middleware’ to translate between them. Maybe

AuPix September 25, 2006

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

Tomorrow I start a new job, as Finance Director of AuPix Ltd, a Bristol startup working on ‘Video and Voice over IP‘ (VaVoIP). It took an opportunity like this to tempt me back into regular employment, and I’m really looking forward to it!

AuPix acquired IPR from SCOTTY Group, video technology which had been developed by UK-listed Motion Media plc before its 2004 ‘merger’ with SCOTTY. The AuPix team is mostly directors and engineers from the former Motion Media

Dieter Rams : Ten principles of “good design” September 21, 2006

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

Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design helps us to understand a product.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is durable.
Good design is consequent to the last detail.
Good design is concerned with the environment.
Good design is as little design as possible.
Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Dieter Rams remains an enduring inspiration for younger designers, notably Jonathan Ive and Jasper Morrison, who have acknowledged his influence in their work at Apple and Rowenta respectively.

…from Rams’ Design Museum profile [via Signal vs. Noise]

Jonathan Ive September 19, 2006

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

Business Week has an article about Jonathan Ive, head of the design team behind the Apple iMac and iPod …[via Signal vs. Noise]

He talked about focusing on only what is important and limiting the number of projects. He spoke about having a deep understanding of how a product is made: its materials, its tooling, its purpose. Mostly, he focused on the need to care deeply about the work….

“One of the hallmarks of the team I think is this sense of looking to be wrong,” said Ive at Radical Craft. “It’s the inquisitiveness, the sense of exploration. It’s about being excited to be wrong because then you’ve discovered something new.”….

Thinking about “design” as simply style or fashion misses the point….What really sets Apple’s products apart is the “fit and finish,” the ultimate impression that results from thousands of tiny decisions that go into a product’s development.

Why climb? September 16, 2006

Posted by mark in : Climbing , add a comment

Dave MacLeod posts on the reasons why climbers climb. Some apply to me more than others do, but the specific ’some’ do keep changing!

Asterisk (telephony) September 14, 2006

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

A couple of interesting posts, at a time when I want to understand Asterisk better …probably by buying (yet another) O’Reilly book

Firstly, Evan Henshaw-Plath’s “Integrating Asterisk and Rails” talk [pdf] at RailsConf Europe, including a list of ‘Fun Applications’ :

  • Listen to mp3 streams on your phone
  • Text to speech RSS reader
  • Email you mp3’s of your voicemail
  • Interactive voice driven Zork
  • Speakeasy – A volunteer community translation service
  • Make payphones ring when you walk by them
  • Trap telemarketers in an endless menu system
  • Spoof Caller ID
  • Add voice & phone interfaces to your Rails applications

…[via Peter Ferne]. I think this is the same topic as a “Hacking Asterisk and Rails with RAGI” article from Dec-05, but it’s a bit beyond me yet

Secondly, “Building Advanced Telecom Apps on a Shoestring” by Brian McConnell …[via Ken Camp]

European v’s American mobile phone use September 12, 2006

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

Michael Mace at Mobile Opportunity compares European and American attitudes towards mobile phones

…[via Communities Dominate Brands]

Startup Review September 11, 2006

Posted by mark in : General , add a comment

Startup Review blog …[Found via Guy Kawasaki]

Extracted from the introductions (short and long) :

I plan to make only one post per week …a detailed case study on a successful Internet company …about ten hours of work per company

It will be written with a slant towards the investor’s perspective…. My name is Nisan Gabbay and I am currently working at Sierra Ventures, an early stage VC firm

I will focus on US-based start-ups. Since I live in San Francisco there will be some Silicon Valley bias here

ROK? – Not so much September 11, 2006

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

The ROK Viper application was the 3rd UK Mobile VoIP story on 4 Sep, which I chose not to mention at the time

I’ve since seen a few critical comments, as people point out that it’s not really Mobile VoIP and it’s not compelling, and those are interesting

Review – “Everyware” September 11, 2006

Posted by mark in : Review, Ubicomp , add a comment

Dan Lockton [Found via Tom Coates] reviews Adam Greenfield’s recent book “Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing“, on his blog (or as Dan says, “discusses some of the ideas”), and more succinctly on Amazon UK, and concludes :

Overall, this is a most impressive book which clearly leads the reader through the implications of ubiquitous computing, and the issues surrounding its development and deployment in a very logical style…. Greenfield’s book is an excellent primer on the subject which ought to be on every designer’s bookshelf

I bought the book, based on a brief review by Jeffrey Zeldman, who said :

Adam Greenfield has written one of the most provocative books in years. If the right people read it, (Everyware) may do for the coming, computerless computing interface what Don Norman’s “The Design of Everyday Things” did for design generally

Adam himself said, prior to publication :

Some of what you’ll find inside is a discussion of what we mean when we say “ubiquitous computing”…; whether it’s truly an immediate concern or a “hundred-year problem”; what different sorts of everyware might emerge in differing cultures; and, of course, an extended exploration of the social and ethical implications of this most insinuative of technologies.

Everyware is pitched to the smart generalist, as opposed to people with a technical background….