Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Google Wave

Monday, October 12th, 2009

So I’ve been playing with Google Wave for the last couple of days and I’m still not sold on it. Perhaps because of all the hype, and hyperbole descriptions that say things like Wave is what we’d have “if email was created today”.

When you first log in to Wave you’re presented with a set of panels. These are for navigating through your folders, selecting contacts and participating in Wave conversations. Waves are a mix between email and IM. You can edit/add comments to any section of the conversation and these appear in real-time to other online participants. This Techcrunch article sums up the abstract concepts nicely by grouping e-comms mechanisms as passive-aggressive.

The Wave team have integrated a widget model (like those on iGoogle home pages) to allow programmers to extend the environment. Of particular note is the Ribbit teleconferencing application that makes use of this API. It allows you to jump out of written Waves and into a phone conference call. I’m less excited about the Sudoku app.

To get going I created a Wave to discuss Wave with my friends and colleagues who are also beta testers. So far the poll I posed has 4 votes for unimpressed and zero for impressed. Since Google are performing a slow roll out of Wave it looks like they’re testing the water to see how people use it. The ingenuity of the online world can often produce some unexpected uses of new technologies. I’ll be interested to see what happens with this one.

Network Addressable Storage

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

We’ve got a bunch of USB hard disks at home that are used for backup and media storage. I’m fairly good about plugging them in and running backup utilities (rsync and SyncToy, mostly) but it is a bit of a pain. So I spent an hour looking at options for network addressable storage.

You can now buy a USB to Ethernet dongle that shares disks over the network. They come in a variety of flavours: feature-low Newlink [£26] which says Windows only; Addonics [£37] which has a load of extra features such as BitTorrent, iTunes, SMB/Samba, XBox media (great review at crunchgear.com). I’m not sure if you can put a USB hub on either of these and access multiple drives.

Another alternative would be to take the drives out of their USB enclosures (they’re usually just laptop or 3.5″ drives) and put them into a NAS enclosure. I found these enclosures on ebay for as low as £13. Again, prices and features vary for them — the Newlink offering at Amazon gets decent reviews for the price [£27].

The final goal is to create a multi-disk box with RAID on an Ubuntu Server. I’ll use that for all backups, media and remote storage. By setting up port forwarding on a home router I’ll be able to access them from anywhere in the world. I’ll wait until we’ve moved into our new home before working on that.

So long desktops

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Reflecting on people and places I’ve visited the home desktop PC seems to be a thing of the past. Now you can buy tricked out consoles for gaming, e-readers, lightweight netbooks and smart phones for connectivity on the move. Why would we want desktops in our homes?

This morning I was listening to a discussion with Leo Laport on the TWiT podcast [from 3 May] in which they were discussing Apple’s aquisition of chip designer P.A. Semi and what this meant. On the Apple jobs site a quick search for hardware turns up a bunch of new posts for hardware engineering positions so there is movement in that space. I subscribe to the theory that Apple will start designing their own chips for mobile devices with the longer term view of dropping desktops and eventually laptops (they just started with Intel chips in desktops/laptops so I don’t think they’ll design for those).

What the TWiT podcasters didn’t pursue was where the long view of this takes us. Underlying the chat of so long to the desktops are the first trickles of pervasive and ubiquitous computing. To paraphrase Mark Weiser, it is certain that computational machinery is disappearing into the fabric of everyday life. That is now never a question. Yet we’re still a long way from the ubiquitous support system envisaged as omnipresent smart dust that unobtrusively manipulates our world in our benefit.

It will take a whole new set of standards and technologies in spaces such as location, context, communications, and human understanding before we can start to see this next generation of technology in everyday life. The reason that Apple may have a big advantatge here is that they like to live in a closed world of machines, networking, peripherals and storage. This means that their systems can work together right out the box. All-Apple environments can safely rely on homogeneous hardware and software in which to operate.

So what about Windows? After the Vista debacle it is likely that Windows 7 will be the penultimate desktop OS from Microsoft. Their research labs already host world-class minds who are working towards the Weiser-world.

Staying connected on the road

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

As our RTW trip comes to an end I thought I’d document how I’ve stayed connected to my life in the e-world. These things are my sanity ties back to regular living:

all on my eee-pc 900 netbook running Easy Peasy (eee-ubuntu) backed up to an external 100GB USB drive.

One thing that didn’t makehe cut was my USB GPS dongle. Next time we’re getting a GPS-enabled camera.

What colour is this?

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

I just spent too much time looking at colour bars on a webpage we were building. The top flash menu versus the bottom div looked different. But the colour codes were the same. I’d been caught out by the viewing-angle dependence of LCD screens.

“Eh?”, you say. Well, it turns out the colour or hue changes significantly on LCD screens as your angle of viewing changes. So colours at the top of the screen look different to colours at the bottom. This is true even over the tiny 9″ of real estate as on my eee pc. To doubly confound my cones the effect gets worse the closer you get to the screen. So by pressing my nose against the screen and squinting at the menu versus the div it looked worse.

Great explanation and example colour swatch.

Installing Firefox 3 on the eeepc (easy way)

Friday, September 5th, 2008

So I had to F9 my eeepc (press f9 on reboot to restore factory defaults) in an attempt to make wifi work properly. It seems good now but I’m keeping an eye on it. Anyway, I had to reinstall FF3 and found some deb packages to make life far easier.

Initial install instructions [eeeuser.com wiki] included this link to 3eportal where the deb packages and instructions reside. I had to run the dpkg command twice to make it work without errors. This method does not touch your FF2 install.

Working up the EEE PC 901

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

I’ve been upgrading and installing on my eee pc 901 ready for travelling. Getting FF 3 on this was a fight. Top hints:

  1. add the following to /etc/apt/sources.list (although I’ve read that adding debian repos to this xandros install might be dodgy). The first is to get out of that stupid simple UI and have a real desktop again:
    1. deb http://update.eeepc.asus.com/p701/ p701 main
    2. deb http://ftp.ie.debian.org/debian etch main contrib non-free
  2. install http://www.gtk.org/ and associated libs (pango, glib…) as per the docs in the tar.bz download. Then add the library path to LD_LIBRARY_PATH in /usr/profile (I’ve also read LD_LIBRARY_PATH is now considered harmful so I should read up on pkg-config command)

I’ve found the rest of the default install to be pretty good. Amarok works great with podcasts and my ipod (much better control over the ipod contents than itunes), the default movie player is great and twitterfox is keeping my tweets up-to-date.

If only I could get FF weave to behave. It seems overloaded since google sync became obsolete.

Manging too many IM buddies in Pidgin

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

My list of buddies on Pidgin IM was getting out of hand. Too many friends with multiple accounts — Jabber, MSN, AIM… Tim pointed out a couple of space saving tips.

First, you can drag a buddy icon and hover over another to nest them as a single entry. I’ve now amalgamated those with Jabber, MSN and AIM accounts into a single buddy on the list. Whichever account is top-most gets IM messages when you send them. You can expand a buddy with a right-click and change this ordering if you like.

The second tip is: buddies menu -> show -> buddy details. Uncheck this option to remove the icons and make the font nice and small. Now I’ve got space for more buddies. If only I could find some…

Firefox 3 in and Google synch out

Friday, June 20th, 2008

A couple of days ago I upgraded to Firefox 3.0. I managed to get in as part of the world record # of downloads stunt. It is being reported that they had over 8 million downloads so it is a new record. Turns out no one has ever entered this record before so recording and reporting any downloads would have counted. We should’ve done this with Construct.

When I started up FF3 it told me that some of my plugins are not compatiable. No big suprise until I spotted Google sync was gone. Eh? Surely Google will update it. Well, no Lifehacker is reporting that Google will no longer support sync.  Ouch.

I guess I can try Foxmarks but I really liked that password, tabs, cookies and history saving. Foxmarks only supports bookmark saving. Google, this is the first time you’ve let me down. For shame.

Geotracking, photos and google earth

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

I’m planning a round the world tour and have been looking into options for geotagging photos and posting our path online. After a bit of research I think a good option is to go with the geotagging feature of Picasa. It is a fairly straightforward process which involves selecting the photos in Picasa, zooming round the globe in google earth and clicking on where they were taken. I considered carrying a gps (Leo Laporte on the “mac break weekly” podcast was big-upping Garmin Nuvis recently)  on me at all times and recording tracks but the battery life of the gps was going to seriously limit how much I could record. We’re looking at a max of 8 hours of tracking — that is no use in the Amazon basin where there are no plugs.

For fun I might build tracks on google earth and post them too. I can use my gps to locate points of interest (will need to pay $20 for GE plus if I want to use GPS directly with it) or just zoom round. To prepare for offline access I’ve upped my disk cache in GE preferences and will cache images before we head out. You can do this by setting a collection of way points and then playing a movie that flies over them. As GE goes along our trail the images will get cached and I can replay them in an offline state [details].