Feet up!
Monday, March 31, 2003
 
Blogshares a-go-go!
Looks like I can break the embargo on this now that Seyed has got it all running happily on BlogShares.com I've even stuck the little "Listed on BlogShares" button on the old sidebar, I wonder if I can persuade enough people to link here to coax this blog above the $10 barrier?

Still at least I'm user number 6 on BlogShares, I'm sure that'll give me some form of kudos...
Thursday, March 27, 2003
 
Adding insult to injury
According to this article by Andrew Orlowski in The Register it seems that the Americans aren't just content with bombing and shooting Iraqis, they also want to saddle them with a CDMA phone system after the war.

This is hardly going to help their rehabilition into the international community, especially when all their neighbours have existing GSM networks, what exactly is the logic behind forcing Iraq to use a phone system that's incompatible with the rest of the World?
 
Gun jumping, take two
Here's another product so fresh it's not available yet!
imobs logo
imobs.com - coming soon it says, watch this space!
 
How to topple Nokia - ok, but why?
In this slightly bizarre ranting article Jacek Rutkowski (jpzr) advocates the tactics that Microsoft should follow to ensure that they beat Nokia in the smartphone market. Fighting talk indeed, but this isn't a war, and having one monopolistic company with control over the mobile market is a loss for everyone but the "winning" monopolist.

However some of his main points are very relevant to anyone who wants to succeed in the mobile arena, I'm going to go through them in more general terms.

Step 1: Microsoft must realize that cell phones are important, and that they belong (or should belong) to the CORE BUSINESS of Microsoft.
This isn't just a Microsoft issue, think numbers, the amount of cell phones (mobiles, handys, whatever) dwarfs that of PCs by a factor of ten or so and that's whilst there's miniscule penetration into the US market. If you're a hardware or software company and you're not thinking about cell phones in your future then the chances are you're not going to have one.

Step 2: let's forget IMMEDIATELY certification/signing limits. Now, in MS Smartphone 2002, in order to run some software it must be certified/signed or phone will not allow for the execution.
True, that's just a dumb restriction, in a market where a new platform is being pushed, why someone should attempt to artificially restrict the production and distribution of new software for their platform is beyond me.

Step 3: .NET Compact Framework should be pre-installed, pre-loaded in ROMs of MS Smartphone 2003 phones (check! it will be.) and should be available also as separate cost-free download for MS Smartphone 2002 phones. This the only proper answer to the fact that Java is being pre-installed in Symbian phones. Last, not least: .NET Compact Framework should provide APIs not only for direct (!) access to phone related functionalities (placing calls, programatically intercepting and sending SMS, etc.) but also such APIs like gaming, Personal Area Networks (Bluetooth), camera, etc. "Web services hype" so much pushed by Microsoft in the .NET Compact Framework is good, but not enough.
I'm not going to get all religious on this, but the same thing is true for .NET and Java. The basic framework has got to come pre-installed on phones, and it has to have sufficient functionality to be useful to both users and developers, otherwise you might as well ship a dumbphone.

Step 4: new wave APIs (camera, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, SIP) should be embedded in the core of MS Smartphone phones
That's stating the obvious, and frankly calling these "new wave APIs" means that common place stuff has been neglected for too long. For anyone that thinks that Bluetooth is going to be a nice technology but it's somewhere in the future, just look at some of the Bluetooth products you can buy today; Bluetooth is here and if it hasn't hit tipping point yet, it's mighty close.

Step 5: for God's sake release immediately embedded Visual Basic (not just Visual Basic .NET) for MS Smartphones. For Pocket PC devices it is possible to develop software easily with both embedded Visual Basic and embedded Visual C++, but for MS Smartphones it is possible only with, not so easy to master, embedded Visual C++!
As a C++ developer I'm very tempted to chortle, but this ties in with steps 2, 3, 4, and 6. Make it easy to develop for your platform and you'll get developer mindshare and a varied range of good apps, the opposite of a monopoly...

Step 6: keep embedded embedded Visual C++ free!
I think he got carried away with the word "embedded" here, but it's the same story, keep feeding the (code) monkeys. Just like Nokia have recently done with the Borland tools for Series 60.

Step 7: arrange availabilty of MS Smartphones to end consumers (not just to developers) also through non-operator channels. Simply speaking if I am a long-year owner of SIM card from Vodafone, then don't force me to switch to Orange just to enjoy Microsoft cell phone software, but give me a way to buy MS Smartphones also without mercy of operators.
Simple stuff, but some companies don't even know that they've missed the Cluetrain yet. Think about it - restrict your customers' freedom, force them to do things they don't want to do, give them a worse service than they know they can get elsewhere - do you really think your customers will love and respect you for that?
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
 
Blogrolls, bah humbug...
Blogrolls are something I've got a sort of love hate relationship with. They're useful, but they skew the relationships between your outgoing links away from the interesting current things you're writing about and towards the the dust gathering links to your friend's dormant blog that you added to the blogroll months ago in the hope of persuading him to keep posting.

Most of the various blog ranking schemes seem to take undue notice of blogrolls due to this affect, especially when blogrolls are of the "here's a list of every feed I've ever added to my aggregator" form.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, I've added a couple of QSM:BLOGROLL tags to mark the start and end of my blogroll, I couldn't find anything equivalent in WMDI but they do have a few related ideas for pointing to external blogrolls, which Radio does too.

I can only hope the blog ranking projects start to use these methods a bit more heavily, it'd be nice if they expressed what metadata they were looking for, and showed you ways in which one could improve one's metadata to help them. Micah Alpern's Trusted Blog Search project would certainly benefit from also using the QSM and WMDI methods of blogroll identification.

The QSM blogroll identification is simple in the extreme, merely add the tags above and below your blogroll as shown below:
<!-- QSM:BLOGROLL -->
...
<!-- QSM:END BLOGROLL -->
 
Word for the day: Muggle
Definition from UrbanDictionary muggle
A C programmer with no real knowledge of C++, just old prejudices.


Brings back memories of a mate who says he hates modern C++ because C++ is an 1980's language and should really be written in a 1980's style, I think he was joking...
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
 
BlogShares - comedy blog pricing time
Seyed has been busy, he's just launched an Alpha of BlogShares and this blog is worth the grand total of $5.26!

I suspect - or hope - there's still a few holes in the valuation methods, one thing is that blogs without a blogroll on the front page (like Ben Hammersley and Russell Beattie) seems to be under valued, maybe their blogrolls need to be discovered somehow, a job for metadata? Also links to other blogs that point at permalinks rather than the blog's home page don't seem to count, how else can one explain Erik "link monster" Thauvin's performance?

Still it's very early days, and the other blog-ranking sites all have similar or greater deficiencies, let's see if Seyed sorts these things out. Btw Sid, "registeration" doesn't normally have an "E" in the middle ;-)

Update: Seyed has asked me to pull the links to this as it isn't quite ready for prime time yet, I bet it won't be long though! And he's fixed the speeling mistook too.
Monday, March 24, 2003
 
Python or C++ job anyone?
Maybe the job market is looking up at last, I've had a couple of agents chasing me to see if I'm interested in a Python on Linux role in West Sussex, and a VC++ ATL/COM post in Suffolk.

Neither of them sound quite up my street, but if you're interested give me a shout and I'll pass you the agent's contact details.
 
Python on Windows, odd request
I'm just wondering if anyone has seen anything that'll solve a minor problem for me.

The problem is that I tend to run 5 or 6 pretty trivial Python scripts all the time and they are cluttering up my taskbar in Windows.

I know I could turn them into .exes with py2exe and maybe run them as services, but I'd like to be able to see their output and maybe interact with them a little.

What I think I'm after is a way to run these scripts all from one app, just something simple where it only appeared as one item on my taskbar (an icon would be even nicer) but I could see all the output in separate windows, has anyone seen anything like this?

Just asking before I re-invent the wheel and write something suitable myself.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
 
Notes to self
Here's a couple of things I'm looking at currently, if you can link them all together you're a better man than me...
Friday, March 21, 2003
 
Bah, kids of today...
An 18 year old friend of ours has a courtesy car whilst her car is being repaired (not her fault I hasten to add), but she doesn't know the first thing about driving it.

She doesn't know whether it's got a rev limiter, how fast it'll go in first gear, how fast in reverse, whether it'll still spin its wheels in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th gear, or even whether the hand brake is very efficient.

Frankly I despair, just what are we teaching these kids?
 
Joined up government...
In a stunning show of ineptitude the Home Office have issued the following terrorism advice:
For warnings about possible bombs or other immediate threats, call 999.
Now 999 is the UK's phone number for the emergency services, Police, Fire, Ambulance, that sort of stuff, not a public information service.

Over recent years the 999 service has been plagued by hoax callers, so much so that the goverment announced a "Crackdown on trivial and hoax 999 callers" where offenders would face "zero tolerance" treatment and jail terms. I suppose this begs the question of whether incitement to mass law breaking is a worse crime than an individual act?

Further coverage of this story from El Reg here and here.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
 
La repertoire de cuisine
C'est la semaine française a Idle Words. Est-ce que les français mange du fromage? Bien sûr. C'est meilleur que de manger du "Zweigel's hot dog on a roll with tater tots", n'est pas?

J'aime une bonne satire, Star Spangled Ice Cream, très drôle. Je crois qu'ils plaisantent, n'est-ce pas?
 
George, Tony, j'accuse...
Aujourd'hui, en solidarité avec la France et dans une geste de soutien de liberté, égalité et fraternité cette joueb sera disponible seulement en français.

Aux francophones, je fais des excuses à l'avance pour ma grammaire, et l'utilisation libérale de franglais.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
 
Can't get to Glastonbury this year?
Well, go to Pastonbury instead then!

I can't quite work out if this is a spoof a la Raging Platypus or an amusing pastie powered showcase for up and coming bands, you decide.
 
New mobile?
Maybe this is one for Mobitopia, let's see if Russ twists my arm into cross-posting it.

I'm looking for a new mobile phone, my primary requirements are:
  • Small size, Nokia 8210 sort of dimensions
  • Not a flip phone
  • Dual band (900-1800MHz) GSM/GPRS
  • Infra red capabilities
  • Bluetooth
  • Affordable i.e. approx 100 quid with a monthly contract on a UK network
  • Java
  • camera
  • usable UI i.e. not Motorola
Nothing too contentious, there's a other few things that I'd like, but are not essential like tri-band (because I know dozens of people with unloved and unused Motorola tri-band phones sitting in drawers which I could borrow). A Symbian phone would be nice, but so far they're all too big (Nokia 7650), ugly (Nokia 3650), expensive (Ericsson P800), or just not available yet.

picture of Siemens S55 phone I'm thinking about getting a Siemens S55, I've had good experiences with their phones, and I can't see anything else out there that meets my pretty simple specification (I'm not asking for too much am I?), a couple of the Nokias come close (the 7250 for instance) but they look less robust and classy than the toy phones my children play with. Have I missed something obvious?
Thursday, March 13, 2003
 
DiveIntoMarch
Ah, he's back! I was wondering if he'd given up blogging and crawled off to a bar, fortunately not, welcome back Mark.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
 
Safe networking: Is promiscuity dangerous?
Mobitopia
There's an interesting discussion going on in consume's Consume-thenet general mailing list over something that might become a big legal issue in the UK.

Background:
Consume are a community networking group, very loose-knit and somewhat anarchic, but with general aim of providing an alternative network to that of the main isps and telcos, free community WiFi networks are the battle du jour, the eventual goal being achieved by having sufficient interconnected nodes to avoid the need for consume network traffic to be tunnelled over the internet or via telcos.

Legal issues:
The Computer Misuse Act makes unauthorised access to a computer (or a network) a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

So what is the problem?
I guess you've spotted it by now, but for those who haven't, here's a possible scenario. Imagine that you're in the park on a sunny day with a WiFi equipped laptop or PDA, you fire it up and surf the net, grab some email, IM some friends etc. Now you assumed this was ok, because you knew from consume's nodemap that this park was covered by a nearby node, but what you didn't know was that an office overlooking the park had recently installed a WiFi access point and in an act of ineptitude left it wide open and you'd connected to that rather than the consume node. Whoosh, go straight to jail, do not pass go, etc...

Now this hasn't happened yet, but it's a very likely event and I've heard tales of people inadvertently using investment banks networks in this manner. Let's face it the mainstream press coverage is going to be along the lines of "Hacker in court for breaking into company network" frankly I can't imagine the hacker getting off lightly now that hackers and terrorists seem to be bundled together.

What's the solution?
The simplest solution is for companies that don't want their WiFi access abused to enable a little security. I'm not talking about Fort Knox, I'm talking about simple stuff like enabling WEP and using a non default password, not secure, but just like the digital equivalent of a locked glass shop front door it is a barrier (albeit very flimsy). In practise this still leaves the companies' networks wide open, but anyone accessing them without authorisation will have consciously chosen to break in and thus risk the wrath of the law. Trying to break WEP encryption is probably a breach of the RIP Act. Also companies that leave their data wide open for public perusal may themselves be in breach of their obligations under the Data Protection Act, so this ought to be a good incentive.

Another possible solution is that open nodes should advertise themselves as such using something like NoCatAuth to restrict all access beyond the node until a authentication process has been undertaken. Personally I'm not in favour of this option, as it then hinders nodes that the owner has setup with the intent of providing open access, and there are serious privacy concerns both for the node user in the details he has to provide and the node owner in ensuring he doesn't fall foul of British data protection laws.

This overall situation is a problem now with 802.11b, I'm sure it will get complicated further once Bluetooth becomes ubiquitous, at what point does an automated attempt to make a connection become a criminal offence?
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
 
Cultural divides
Russ asked me what I was eating the other day, I replied "Bovril sarnies and a Cornish pastie". However as a Septic he was a little stumped by this, so for benefit of him and other merkins here are some links for future reference: And as I've already enlightened him about Irn-Bru I wonder what culinary delights I can puzzle him with next? Black pudding? Porter? Andouillette? Marmite? Scotch eggs?
 
RSCPA - animal lovers and spammers...
That's nice, you give you hard earned cash to the RSCPA, and instead of using it to look after animals they spend it lining the pockets of spammers, sorry guys but you're not getting any more money from me ever.

Danny O'Brien has the full story, it seems they weren't satisfied with just trying to break FaxYourMP they had to be fullscale internet low-life. Frankly I'm so disgusted I'm tempted to kick my dog when I get home...

Update: The plot thickens, David Bowles, the RSPCA's campaign head is saying that they didn't authorise the spamshot in this QuickTopic conversation, I wonder what really happened?
Monday, March 10, 2003
 
Dot Mob
Russell has a very interesting post about one of his "business plans" called Dot Mob - it's a neat idea, each component of the system is not that complicated but the overall result is greater than the sum of the parts. In my opinion it fulfills many peoples' needs for data management and better communications from their phones, and as someone with 100s of contact details in my mobile phone I can appreciate only too easily the problems that can occur if this data isn't backed up.
Friday, March 07, 2003
 
Happy birthday to me
27 tomorrow, how sad is it when you've got to count the years in hex? :-)

Anyway off to bed, I want to watch the qualifying for the Australian GP at 3am in the morning!
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
 
Disentanglement or Anticonvergence?

Ok, I've mentioned these before, but as Russ and I seem to be the only people excited by them, I'm going to mention them again. I think Personal Mobile Gateways or PMGs are going to be this year's big mobile sensation.

Although IXI seem to be the only people pushing these devices, it appears that they're looking for OEMs to manufacture them and for integration into existing product lines, so I wouldn't be surprised if new phones from the big manufacturers start to appear with little PMG logos; it will become just another desirable feature like Bluetooth.

Good news
The other week at 3GSM IXI launched PMG World magazine, with the launch issue available online. It's a bit of a PR rag, but there's some good snippets of info buried away. One thing the PMG design allows is very lightweight external clients (phones, cameras, messaging terminals etc.) that communicate over Bluetooth to the PMG. Something that I hadn't appreciated before was just how thin (software wise) these Sleek devices can be as the PMG is also an applications server. This means that a Sleek device can have very low processor and power needs, making it yet smaller, lighter, and cheaper.

From looking at the ads it seems that a number of Far Eastern OEMs have Sleek devices (with the all important "designed for PMG" logo) ready to go, Game Park with a GBA like handheld gaming device which is also an MP3 player, text reader, image viewer and media player. Lite-On with a messaging terminal and a voice terminal, Hit Inc. with a cunning looking ball-point pen that can record and email voice memos via the PMG, and Infohand with a couple of cameras.

Most exciting though is that PMGs ought to be shipping from Lite-On and several major phone manufacturers in the second half of this year, I guess CeBIT will be the place these will be announced.

Bad news
A couple of things caught my eye in the magazine, the first is minor but worries me; the PMG is said to be the size of a mint box, so how big is that? Russ tells me that mint flavoured sweets are often sold in boxes or tins in the US and points me at Altoids.com but that still leave me a bit puzzled, from the description I'd initially expected something the size of a pack of TicTacs, not something the size of a fag packet (cigarettes). The most worrying aspect I suppose is that the marketing seems to be US based and US oriented, maybe this is the aim, this could well be where IXI's backers are based. But with the rest of the world regarding the US as being stuck in the dark ages with mobile telecoms, is this such a wise thing? Ask a European, Antipodean or Asian about pagers, Motorola phones, the Treo or Blackberry and you'll get a bemused expression or even outright laughter.

More seriously as a user and a software developer I want to know what apps I can install and run on the PMG, this aspect isn't covered in the magazine, and more worryingly the ability for the networks to remotely control the PMG is heralded as a great selling point. What guarantees does this give me about the security and privacy of my personal data stored on the PMG? Maybe I'm not the intended audience for the magazine, it appeared to be aimed at wooing networks and hardware manufacturers, but I'd like to see some information on this aspect of the PMG. The Orange SPV was quite rightly panned for hindering third party app developers, and this has undoubtedly cost it user and developer mindshare, it would be a shame for the PMG to share this fate.

So plenty of good news, and some bad news, I'm sure we'll get plenty more news (hopefully good) before it launches.

Someone called the PMG concept the Unix approach, a good tool does just one thing and it does it very well. To get a good solution you just glue together a number of tools with a shell script or a couple of judiciously placed pipes. This analogy fits the PMG very nicely, it's not a kitchen sink style phone, but it can be part of a such a setup if you so desire, just add a Sleek messaging terminal, voice terminal, media player, camera, Bluetooth equipped pda and you've got something with far more features than any Swiss Army Knife phone with the added advantage that you can choose to carry just the features you need.
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
 
I'm a Mobitopian
Mobitopia is a new multi-contributor weblog about mobile technology, it's another one of Russ's madcap schemes for world domination. Seriously, it should be an interesting place, there's a good cross section of contributors lined up, I think it'll be very good.
 
Something I didn't know
Moof tells me something I'm not sure I wanted to know, he's currently number one in the Google search for Massive cook, the joy of referrer logs...
Monday, March 03, 2003
 
Spam, spam, spam
I'm not getting deluged, but I get enough to be irritated, so I had a bit of a play over the weekend to see if I could filter out the worst of it. Long term it looks like I'm going to use SpamAssassin, but for some quick testing I've been using PopFile.

Popfile works as a POP3 proxy, so getting it working is trivial,
  1. install it,
  2. adjust your POP3 client's server settings,
  3. train it via its web interface, and you're done.
There's a good overview of how it works in The Spam Files weblog.

I trained it up on a few hundred emails, which was probably a little excessive, I was getting good results after the first 50 or so, and the last 50-100 emails were automatically categorised perfectly. It's really made me think, I usually set up dozens of rules in my mail clients and get 70-80% accuracy, however a little statistical analysis has done a better job with far less effort. I'm a convert!
 
All the threes
Three the UK's first 3G operator launch today, it's an apt date (03-03-03) whichever way you write it. They've been running TV ads all weekend, doing fun stuff like showing video replays of Premiership goals on the phones, which I believe is one of the services. Cool stuff, I wonder how long it'll be before I see someone using a phone in the flesh. Their pricing is pretty keen compared to that for a heavy GPRS user too.