Recently in Technology Category
March 18, 2014
The one reason I keep doing what I do for a living (whatever the hell that is, as it seems to change every few months right now...) is that new technology is enabling such different forms of storytelling and, as a natural storyteller of sorts, how can you not get all excited and want to be involved with that?
Take this video, which has been doing the rounds over the last few days:
Sure - it's an advert for GoPro cameras - but that's just fine with me, because their kit has enabled this sort of storytelling. Or, at least, made the costs involved much, much lower.
I really should get myself one...
March 10, 2014
I just wrote a post for NEXT Berlin which has provoked a little more reaction than normal. I admit - it's a more touchy subject than most, encompassing both a missing plane, and thus many lives at risk or lost. And it takes a side-swipe at the obsessions of the tech business right now. But despite the not entirely positive reaction, I'm pretty pleased with it, because it encompasses a lot of what I believe about blogging, both in terms of process and in terms of exploring ideas.
First of all, on the process front, it reflects one of my cardinal rules of doing blogging well: connect the impetus to blog with the action to implement as soon as possible.
I was procrastinating slightly about posting, because I wasn't massively enthused about the subject I'd come up with, and then I came across Mary's Facebook post, and the appropriate neurones leapt up of the cognitive couch, brushed the metaphorical pizza crumbs from their notional chests and went to work.
Why did this get me interested? Well, it invoked two of the things I feel strongly about:
1. Get out of the bubble
This is a serious one. I've talked before how I find the intra-journalist discussion about the digital future amazingly dull compared the the conversation happening at the intersection of journalism and everything else. That problem - the echo chamber of like-minded people talking to themselves is everywhere, and it holds us back. When you only look inwards, you keep finding the same old answers.
I feel that the internet of things - as a concept - is locked into that right now. Lots of people borrowing ideas off each other, but basically ending up with the same bunch of products.
This is one of these stories where two worlds come together to make a very interesting possibility. Mash together aviation - and its obsession to safety detail - and the efficient communications skills of the internet of things movement, and you have a very interesting potential partnership. If I could introduce the problem from one side of the fence to potential providers on the other, how could I resist?
Was the timing wrong? I don't know. If you have this conversation long after the event, then you get no traction for the ideas. In a sense, I was taking my cue from the aviation community, which certainly seemed to think that this was an appropriate time to discuss these matters.
2. Time for tech to grow up
The move to mobile and apps is great and everything - but isn't there more than this? It feels like the grand tech juggernaut has ground to a halt and has got utterly distracted by finding new ways for us to play games and chat to each other in increasingly simplified ways. Both of these are admirable things in their worn right. But is that really what we're going to use all this great tech for?
OK, I'm overstating the case. Interesting things are being done outside the startup/apps/VC economy, but you wouldn't know it from the the tech press right now. I think that needs to change. I think we need to puncture that happy little tech bubble, and start looking more deeply at how it really impacts life outside that sphere.
But right now, it's past 11pm, I have to be up early in the morning to deliver a day's training, so I'll leave further exploration of that idea for another day.
This is the seventh in a series of one-a-day substantive posts I'm going to try to write through March.
March 8, 2014
I started this daft writing project with ideas of fighting complacency. It's too easy to slip into habits in your blogging, to just keep doing what you did before, without any serious attempt to keep pushing yourself forwards. And, in a sense, I've been scuppered for two days by taking exactly that approach to my technology.
I've been using Movable Type to blog here for over a decade now, and I've been on a single webhost for the majority of that time - since 2007, in fact. Now, I'm seriously reconsidering that decision. The past 48 hours have not covered my webhost in glory. They killed my blog software - and then my whole account - with no clear explanation. It took them 24 hours to resolve a photo uploading problem once the site was restored - and they broke the site several times in the meantime.
And, to cap it all, they gave me utterly wrong information at one point - telling me that I was using very old software (which is true, if your definition of "very old" is two months), which is unmaintained (not true) and therefore my site was "probably hacked". Well, suspending my account because it was "probably hacked' is one thing, although the "probably" is a bit worrying; surely you should check before pulling down sites? Doing it without notification is another.
So, now I find myself wondering if I should migrate this blog to another of my hosting accounts - and that's another level of work that'll consume time I can ill-afford right now.
But then, I've also been reminded today how much technology does move on when you're not paying attention. It's been over a decade since I bought a printer. That one was on its last legs back in 2008, so I switched it for my late mother's printer when she passed away. That printer has been faithfully serving us every since, but I finally made the decision to do away with it earlier in the year, as the ink prices for it were getting out of hand. When the current cartridges died - it was being replaced. And that happened earlier in the week. This morning, a Canon Pixma 6450 arrived - and it has been a revelation.
Two become one (tech edition)
First of all, it's replacing two devices. Both my old printer and scanner are exiting, with one device taking their place. Welcome back, desk space.
Also, it connects to my wireless network - and, joy of joys, it supports AirPrint, which means I can print from my iPad and iPhone. It was quite something to tap the sharing button I've never used on my iPhone - the one marked "print" - and see a page pop out of the printer a few seconds later. What was more impressive was loading up some 6x4 photo paper and seeing a perfect little print popping out.
And then I realised how much time I wasted getting prints from Boots and those little printing kiosks when sending letters of thanks to people who bought Hazel clothes. This printer is capable of producing just as good results, faster, and without leaving home. The price is not much different. Sticking with that old printer was a false economy, in terms of the time/money trade off. I should have done this a while ago.
Time poor, cash… OK
Mentally, I've never quote made the journey from "time rich, cash poor" to "time starved, cash comfortable". I still make decisions based on saving money not time - but since Hazel came along, time has been at an absolute premium, and I'm not yet making sensible decisions about how to deploy my money to ease that time pressure a little.
Am I paying too little for my web hosting - and suffering huge losses of time as a result? Would some sensible investment in hosting and a managed move to WordPress pay off in the long run? Where else in my life is corner-cutting costing me precious time? These are questions I need to be asking with more rigour - and focus.
March 1, 2014
I had an odd experience on Facebook the other day. It's probably the closest I'll ever come to those apocryphal tales of warriors emerging from the jungles of Asia to discover that the war ended decades ago. A friend posted about the GoTo security flaw that has afflicted Apple devices, that was fixed over the last week or so.
He mentioned, in passing, that Apple products were no longer the bastion of security they once were. Someone immediately popped up ranting about "90% marketing and 10% security by obscurity", and I thought "Really? There's still someone out there fighting the Mac versus PC war?"
Serving in the OS war trenches
I served my time in those trenches a good 15 years or so back. I valiantly fought for my beloved Mac against the overwhelming hordes of PC users that made up my friends and colleagues. I used to feel guilty about it, like it was an embarrassment from my youth, but I've sort of gotten over that. I was battling to preserve an OS that I preferred using, in a time when there was a very real possibility that it might disappear. There's nothing wrong in standing up for choice. In that, that's why today's Android versus iOS battle doesn't even feel remotely similar, because both OSes are doing very nicely, thankyouverymuch. Neither is at any risk of expiring. In fact, as a consumer, I'm rather enjoying watching two strong competitors drive each other ever onwards. It means a better device in my pocket, whichever side I choose.
This Facebook warrior that started this rambling thought process, emerging from the jungle, is coming out to find that his side, which we'll call Micro$oft for old times' sake, won. And what it won was - irrelevance. You can't dispute that Microsoft still has an utter stranglehold on corporate computing, putting a PC on the desktop of pretty much every corporate drone out there. And you'll have to pry PCs from the cold, dead hands of gamers everywhere.
If it's not mobile it doesn't matter
But beyond that? The landscape has changed, and all the interest - and sales - are in mobile devices. Poor old Microsoft is a distant third in this game, climbing up nervously even after it saw BlackBerry plummet down past it a short while ago. It's been utterly unable to turn its market dominance into PCs into amiable strategy in the mobile age, and has made the unedifying discovery that its critics were right: its main selling point was being a cheap, flexible knock-off of an Apple OS. How does it know? Because Google's cheap, flexible knock off of an Apple OS is kicking its butt in the marketplace.
The irony is that Microsoft has done it right this time. It built something fresh, original and iconic in Windows Phone. And it can't shift it in any significant numbers. Only its hardest core fans have gone for it, and its traditional buyers have gone Android in their droves. It's a pity, because like many Apple fans, I really like Windows Phone.
Never trust a fanboy
If there's any moral to this tale, it's possibly that: never take business strategy advice from Apple fanboys. Oh, and don't fight last decade's OS wars. It just makes you look silly on Facebook.
This is the first in a series of one-a-day substantive posts I'm going to try to write through March.
February 28, 2014
You know that quote you always hear?
Information Wants To Be Free.
It's not the whole quote.
Here's the entirely of it:
Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive. ...That tension will not go away
The whole quote is so much more interesting than the shortened version. And people only quoting the shortened version tell you a lot about themselves…
February 26, 2014
February 25, 2014
What do we have here? A video promoting a piece of software called Ember, starring me (and completely scene-stolen by my daughter):
This all came about at the last TEDxBrighton. Thibault - whom I'd first met when he was working with Brilliant Noise - has recently joined Realmac, and I was singing the praises of Ember to him, as I'd recently discovered it. Would I appear in a video promoting it? Yes, I said. And promptly forgot about it.
It was a fascinating insight into how talented filmmakers construct the narrative of a video like this. And it actually makes my life seem significantly more cool than it actually is. (Hazel is exactly that cute, though - and demands her appearance fees paid in Duplo).
All in all, a worthwhile experience, in the service of a worthwhile piece of software. It's probably the only advert I'll ever appear in, but I did enjoy the process.
February 17, 2014
Every time I think a proper job would be nice again...
I remember a grey slab I was issued by the tech quartermasters when I started my last proper job, packed with software designed to process ideas and thoughts into grey, bullet-pointed entropy. Then I was given a "smart" phone to match. A phone so bad, it allegedly destroyed the electronics in one of my colleagues' car when he plugged it into to its USB port.
...something reminds me why it wouldn't.
February 12, 2014
February 11, 2014
Many of you will have seen something like this when you visit my blog today:
And I'm far from alone. Here's Antony Mayfield's blog:
And here's Christian Payne's:
It's not often that I use my blog for political purposes, but this is something I feel strongly about. I've heard from people on both sides of the issue, and while I can appreciate the effectiveness of mass surveillance in proventing terrorist attacks, I still can't find it in myself to condone mass surveillance of people who have no reasonable suspicion of involvement hanging over them. Just because the nature of the internet makes this easier does not mean this is an acceptable or reasonable way for democratic societies to behave.
So, I've signed the petition against it, and I urge you to consider doing the same - or writing to your congress respresentative if you're in the US.
February 3, 2014
As I said in my last post, the disruptor can be disrupted...
Henry Taylor, writing for the MediaBriefing:
Design and business title Katachi magazine is an example of doing it yourself if the tools aren't available to you. Founder and editor, Ken Olling, spent 3 years creating Origami Engine - InDesign-inspired software built purely for touch experiences:
We started with the idea of a magazine but very quickly realised there wasn't anything out there built for touch. InDesign is a great product for print but it's the wrong tool for the mobile medium.
Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite, which sits atop InDesign to produce tablet editions is a clumsy process that creates clunky results. This, coupled with resistance from some customers to the shift to a software rental model though Creative Cloud, makes it feel like the chink in InDesign's armour...
Many of us of a, um, certain vintage will recall the days when Quark Xpress ruled the desktop publishing roost. Stephen Hackett charts its fall:
The application that once enjoyed upwards of 90% marketshare is now regulated to the sidelines. Looking back, the app's demise was long and slow, giving the company lots of time to change course.
It didn't, of course. And that allowed Adobe to get InDesign into pretty much every publisher out there.
Quark was a notoriously slow and uncommunicative company back then - but its software made publishing so easy it was hard not to love it - until they really fell behind. The disruptor can be disrupted...