Email is broken

I'm so close to giving up on Email all together.

I have many email accounts and they all do different things. Everything was cool till Evolution (my mail client) started being selective about what email it would download from the server. Before that I started noticing a load of email on my personal email address, so I was having to add spam control to that account.

Don't get me started on my work email. My BBC email is like the remains of a atom bomb. I blame Outlook 2003 for a start, add limited spam control and the fact my email address is everywhere online. You have a recipe for another atom bomb. Ideally I would use another mail client like Thunderbird but thats only half of the story. The out office no longer works, mail rules like automaticly forward messages are disabled and usually when I got time to reply to emails like at home while watching tv is made very difficult using a windows only VPN solution or hourly webmail option.

Yes its bloody frustrating and I can't help but think I'm much more productive when using social software. Hell even instant messenger is better for me that email.

Suw's talk from Fowa and Web2.0 Expo about the problems people have with email was only the start. I was seriously shaking my head up and down like a nodding dog when I heard Luis Suarez from IBM talk at the Web 2.0 Expo Europe. The talk was about his battle with giving up on email. People said he would be fired but 37 weeks on, he's still working for IBM.

I think theres something about this and the slow movement which fit really well. Its not simply junking your email, its about applying the right amount of effort at the right point. I looked at my stats for working in Rescue time and seriously the amount of time I spend in Outlook or Evolution is just wrong. My Efficiency is very high but its all happening within email.



Its time to sort all these things out once and for all.

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A professional camera setup using one Sanyo Xacti?

Sanyo HD1000 being used

When I first saw the Sanyo Xacti HD1 I thought wow you could film a movie on this easily. Some people totally disagree but I felt the quality was good enough to pass for most things online and even offline. But to be fair the mpeg4 codec wasn't quite good enough and the lens wasn't big enough to get lots of light down it. So when I first saw the Sanyo Xacti HD1000, I started thinking hey this is the revision which could be the break through camcorder.

Well it seems I'm not the only one, thinking this way. I met a startup company doing interviews with people all over the place using simply a Sanyo Xacti HD1000 with a radio mic and large light. It was perfect, the presenter would move the medium hand mic back and forth between himself and the person being interviewed. While the camera man would hold the camera generally quite still and check the levels on his in the ear headphones.

I grabbed a few minutes with the camera man and asked him about his setup. He said he use to walk around with a Canon DV camera but its too big and heavy plus the “downtime” of encoding footage was costly. He said the camera is great but the light makes all the difference to the footage. He also said he'd considered the HD1010 but he's waiting for the 3CCD version before upgrading.

I have more photos of course

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Microsoft embraces the cloud and its technologies

cloud office

So I did say in a few presentations recently, that I'm dying to replace my slide of Microsoft Livemesh and Ray Ozzie's thoughts about cloud computing with something more cloud like. Well yesterday Microsoft unveiled Azure, a operating system for the cloud. From my understanding, its like Google App engine but using .net instead of python. They do say Python, PHP, Ruby, etc are coming soon.

I did sit and watch the Channel9 video where he explains the whole thing over 40mins and it does sound good but not ground breaking in my own mind. Could be useful for the backstage wild west server but I expect the community would litch me before I got close to suggesting it.

So after the cloud computing announcement of Azure, Microsoft went on to surprise us all with a consumer facing announcement that Windows live ID will OpenID 2.0.

Beginning today, Windows Live™ ID is publicly committing to support the OpenID digital identity framework with the announcement of the public availability of a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of the Windows Live ID OpenID Provider. You will soon be able to use your Windows Live ID account to sign in to any OpenID Web site!

I wonder if they ever plan to support access to there own services via openID?

But the biggest announcement was of course a demo of microsoft office live which is like google docs but microsoft office. Unsuprisingly Microsoft will still be selling copies of Microsoft Office 14 in shops.

So Microsoft have certainly put a foot in cloud computing but between livemesh, azure and officelive I'm not exactly wow'ed. More me too that trailblazing.

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Web 2.0 Expo Europe, a review

Tim Oreilly

Yes! The O'reilly team have finally got it going on in Europe. Last year's Web 2.0 Expo somewhat sucked, but for the wrong reasons. The venue was terrible , I mean worst that anywhere else I've been. They placed the expo in the middle of this huge lifeless exhibition centre and the staff made everyone feel like a alien. Some people say the Excel Centre can feel like that sometimes but honestly you have no idea how lifeless thing really can get till you see this place.

Anyway those days are forgotten now, the BCC is right in the middle of town and a short walk from Alexandplatz which meant more Sbahn riding for me that last time but it was worth it. 3 Levels, lots of space and helpful staff made already good conference really very good. So to get all the moans out of the way first and to be fair to the barcampberlin post I just wrote.

The programme for the conference was a little scatty, so yes there were interesting talks but it seemed like sometimes you had to choose between 3 really good sessions and sometimes settle for one. The quality of the speakers were variable sometimes too, but I think thats mainly down to language that anything. For example I was in the OAuth talk and by the time the presenter had explained a typical Oauth transaction as such, I was getting bored and started falling a sleep. It was about 15mins too long. The transaction could have been explained in less that 5mins I felt, specially because most people in room already knew how permissions and OpenID worked. That certainly reminds me that next time I should put a presentation in about something.

Food wasn't bad, a little basic but filling enough. I found the Wifi actually not bad but they seemed to be blocking ports, so Jabber didn't work which meant no Jaiku, Yammer, etc access while at the conference without going to the webpages. The web access was very slow but twitter perfectly usable. I wouldn't have wanted to upload any pictures while there because that was very slow.

Tim Oreilly came out and gave a keynote pretty much about what he had said in New York a while back. It was all about the downturn and what this means for web 2.0. Tim's been talking about it for a while anyway. This was also picked up by many other speakers so there was a sense of doom and gloom surround the conference but people were also telling us to do something meaningful. Great stuff but then again, there was 2 fireside chats with one Yossi Vardi and second Martin Varsavsky

Both talked about how they started and sold there startups. Which seemed very strange when you got all this doom and gloom happening. I guess it was all planned that way to break up the doom and gloom? Maybe?

Anyway, I attended a lot of sessions and although being pretty tired from overdoing it on the night. What I found interesting was the amount of value you got for the 13 euro expo only pass. The obvious stuff like the talks, parties and food/drink were not included but most other things were fine (even the keynotes were included)

On the Startup Ignite front, I liked aka-aki, Amazee and Soundcloud. But really didn't see the point of the others, specially iDesktopTV in the face of things like Boxee. The Berlin Girl Geekdinner was a blast and really started off the web 2.0 expo in the best of ways. I believe that night I stayed out with a small group of people including Nicole till 4am. I also did get into a conversation with Stephennie Booth about the subject of quotas or as I wanted to call it affirmative action. She had some really interesting things to say about it which I'd hoped to catch at the session Suw and Steph ran later but it didn't quite happen. Actually I have the recording of that session which need to upload I've uploaded to Blip.tv (mp3) (ogg).

Rather that turn this entry into a massive long one, I'll end it by saying it was a really good conference. Everyone knew it and felt a lot happier about it that last year. I think next year, there should be a attempt to bring back web 2.0 open again (that worked well from last year) but in the same space of the berlin congress centre. Good Work Oreilly and Techweb, see you next year.

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Take on me (literal version)

Ah geez, like or not I was a child of the 80's and so I do kind of remember a lot of these pop songs. But I saw this on the Diggreel recently and couldn't help but share. Its Aha's Take on me but described as it plays in tune.

Dusto MCNeato seems to be the man behind the almost internet meme/trend which also includes a few pro-amatuer attempts such as the Rick roll one. I say almost because its very difficult to do and I can't imagine many people creating them. However there might be lots of bad copies to come… Till then enjoy.

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Pacemaker.net meet SoundCloud.com, now play nice

Pacemaker at Sonar

While at Web 2.0 Expo, I learned about Soundcloud. It was during a pitch event, so I started off thinking so what but then was quickly turned around when hearing about how it works and what features it has. After the pitch event I grilled one of the guys ( Alexander Ljung of Soundcloud) behind it about data portability and you know what? Soundcloud comes out really well. Not only does it keep the origninal tune ala blip.tv but you can also assign licences, bookmark sections, comment on parts and syndicate tunes. They are considering the idea of using archive.org for permanent long term storage after I mentioned what Blip.tv promise in there end user licence agreement.

While talking to the soundcloud guy, I mentioned I've been looking for somewhere to upload my dj mixes because I now own a pacemaker device. Those were the magic words, as he explained that he knew the guys behind the pacemaker (yeah both Soundcloud and Pacemaker are swedish). He then explained how they tried to get the pacemaker guys to interop or replace there pacemaker.net dj mix section with soundcloud. For what ever reason they didn't and now pacemaker.net has become a little bit of dead community due to the limits on uploads and general lack of focus. The device is great but the site is poor to say the least. Using Soundcloud makes sense for many reason. Number one being the can just stick to making the pacemaker better via firmware updates and a range of related objects. Pacemaker.net reminds how the camera makers such as Kodak, Nikon, Canon, etc all setup there own photosharing/gallery sites for there customers. Now most of them lead you to Flickr or Photobucket instead. Makes sense for the Pacemaker to go the same way in the near future.

Till then I'll be recording my mixes and uploading them to soundcloud.com/cubicgarden, myself

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BarCampBerlin3, too many thoughts

Twitter live at BarCampBerlin3

Finally on a flight back to the UK, unfortunately I got the GMT times mixed up and so ended up missing the only flight back to Liverpool and it would seem the north of england. Because of this I had to buy a another airplane ticket and go to London Luton instead. This means a very long journey back to Manchester tonight. If it wasn't for the head conference, i would have just waited till tomorrows flight to Liverpool or stayed over in London with some friends. Oh well…

So BarCampBerlin3 was massive, I think the list was meant for 600 people and about 500 showed up through-out the two days. Two days you say? Yep two days no sleepover and worst than that, kicked out at 6pm so no chance to even attempt a game of werewolf. The venue was at Tmobile which is like/equivilant to BT in the UK (funny enough BarCampLondon2 was in BT). Right so were in a huge venue and there are only 8 rooms and every session is 45mins long. I mean holy crap think about the maths behind this.

Lets suggest Saturday you have 14 hours of time and Sunday 9 hours. 16hours then you throw out all the time for lunch and breaks, your now down to 10 hours and 6 hours which is 16hours or 960 minutes. Right split that up into 45mins slots, which is roughly 21 slots. Then times that by 8 equals 168 slots. Geez even if you cut that down to 30min slots thats 32 times 8 equals 256 slots.

My point is that half the people in the room will never get a chance to present or run a session. I personally find this distasteful and the opposite of a unconference like barcamp. What made things even worst was the choice to put 30min breaks between every single 45min session. So most of the event was spent walking back to the board and then waiting for the next session to start. Someone explained to me, this is the socialising part of the barcamp and a lot of people want this. I say fine I may even understand but its painful for someone from outside germany. Ok not quite finished with schedule yet. On top of the scheuling, people would leave gaps..Further making it difficult for people to give a talk. In the end I actually gave 3 talks because I'd change a empty spot to one of my talks. On Sunday I got there late and I walked in when people were writing down the talks and added my “death to the ipod” talk to the last empty space before even taking off my coat. There seemed to be a strange system where you say out loud to everyone what your session is about. Nicole told me later its to work out which space to put the session into. Maybe but this strikes me as dead bate for anyone whos terrified of public speaking. Plus in my mind it indicates to people that your talk should be popular and that seems anti-barcamp in mind.

The layout of the rooms were another problem. There were about 5 rooms which were seperated by thin 2m high partitions. This meant you could easily hear both speaker next door. When people are talking in a non-native language this is painful to follow. I have no idea what it must be like for those who understood very little English. Maybe that was the reason why some speakers just opted for German.

Other noticable things were the lack of food (drink was ok, but nice to have more choice that water, jolt cola or apple/orange juice). stupid amount of sponsors, distance to toilets, talks advertising products and general lack of interesting talks.

Ok I've been pretty negative about the whole event, but I don't want to be. The twitter screen was wicked. The venue was great, and could have been setup much better to better show it off but good stuff. Some talks specially on the second day were good, the power and wifi were all good through out the days and there was a buzz about the whole event from start to end. I don't want to weigh in on what a barcamp is or isn't but this was well on its way towards a conference. I still can't understand whats the point of having so many sponsors if you can't cover the basic things like food for everyone? I think there is something which was started with BarCampLondon5, dual or even triple barcamps on the same day. So rather that have one huge barcamp of 500+ people, why not have two smaller ones. This also would fit because you can have one which is 2 standard days with sleepover and the other one a one or two dayer with no sleepover. Those up for the sleepover go to one and those not so bothered can go to that one instead.  How did BazCampLondon1 go by the way people?

I got a feeling the BarCamp and BazCamp concept seem to fit around major events like FOWA, Web 2.0 Expo, etc. So maybe the next big London BarCamp I might get somewhat involved in…

As you may have seen already my pacemaker talk went down really well, with a full room of about 70 people (almost none I actually knew) and my boxee/xbmc talk went down well too. Well enough to attract the attention of the famous hardware hacker Fabienne Serriere. Shes written for Hackaday, Engadget and worked directly with people like Jason Calacanis while at Netscape and AOL.

The best talk I attended, I got to say was from Candid Wuest who worked at Norton (one of the sponsors). The talk was centred around the changes in threat writing to a professional self organised system all about making the most amount of money from people as possible. Its all stuff we know but its good to hear it at a barcamp. I've been wanting to run a session about things I've learned about computer security and networking but never done it. I really need to upload the rest of my photos of the event.

Generally it was worth going to and I met a few new people during the day. Looking forward to what changes there might be in the next one. Maybe same time next year.

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Imagine the open sensor net

Energizer USB Charger

I picked up a cheap little USB charger while waiting in the Airport for the Virgin Coach to Milton Keynes (follow the twittes going forward). And I noticed it actually contains a sensor with a private API so you can monitor the recharging progress in a application. This is cool but the application only runs on Windows and Mac so no chance of a gnu/Linux version anytime soon then. But it got me thinking, how interesting would it be if the sensor did have a open API which you could query? I could tie that into a screenlet/widget instead of a crazy separate application. Anyway dreaming over, this device makes a good addition to the Moxia USB Cell batteries I already own. Only my work Nokia N80 is the only item I carry with me when traveling which doesn't charge off USB. Everything else is USB powered.

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Berlin Web Week


Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008

Not long till I jump on the flight to Berlin and I'm trying to finish some vital work and work out what I need to pack. While downloading a map and working out where I'll be at what time, I found this site linked from the BarCampBerlin3 site. Although the Flash object will be useful to some of you the ical and rss will be better used for the rest of us. What would be extra useful is all the events plotted on a google map, so foreigners like myself can work out where everything is and how long it will take to get there.

Roughly my plans look like this…

  • Friday – Fly in, spend sometime with my Berlin friend whos kindly putting me up.
  • Saturday – BarCampBerlin3 all day, werewolf in the night? (still don't know if its a overnight barcamp or not)
  • Sunday – BarCampBerlin3 again most of the day, werewolf again?
  • Monday – Take it easy catch up with work, then on the night go to the Berlin Girl Geekdinner
  • Tuesday – Web 2.0 Expo all day
  • Wednesday – Web 2.0 Expo all day
  • Thursday – Web 2.0 Expo, then on the night Tech Crunch's LateCrunch (I may go straight to the airport from there)
  • Friday – Sleep till midday, then get my plane back to Liverpool

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If only every hotel was like club quarters

Hotel AV/Tech setup by you.

As most of you know, I spend a lot of time going back and forth between London and Manchester. The BBC does pay for my hotel and travel but there are strict limits which must be followed. The limits are great if your outside of London, but extremely difficult in Central London. Anyway, I tend to try out different BBC preferred hotels because I've not found one I'm totally happy with.

So last week I had the pleasure of Club Quarters on Northumbria Street (behind Charing Cross Station). It offered a government rate which was compatible and so I booked it. Not only is club quarters very nice, modern and clean, but they give you lots of space and some rooms have a full kitchen setup so its like being in a serviced apartment.

What really got me going however was the Media Panel (see above picture) which not only had a hook up for playing your laptop or mp3player on the TV, but a dedicated VGA connection, Ethernet and even a Composite connection. I can't tell you the amount of times i've wanted to play something on the big screen in the room but not been able to get around the back of the plasma screen or have the cables to do the hook up. There's also power on the desk directly and free wifi through-out the hotel. Believe it or not I've been in hotels where there has only been one power socket and thats been used for the TV.

Its unfortunately not all perfect, for example breakfast is not included in the cost, although being in central London means theres a much cheaper cafe serving a full english breakfast not far away. Club quarters also insist on me giving them a credit card for extras (although they don't have a minibar and water is freely available on each floor). They say the reason why is to stop people using the rooms under other names.

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Bag of hurt or bag of sh*te?

Television lies

New laptops, yeah yeah who really cares? Well I certainly don't but what I did find interesting was Steve Jobs comments about Blu-Ray after the prep rally. “A bag of hurt.

He's right, its a mess. Although I certainly wouldn't agree with the later comments by some Apple person about iTunes being the best HD movie experience or HDMI being limited in resolution. As far as I know, HDMI 1.3 supports WQXGA which is 1600 progressive, which is 2560×1600 pixels resolution (over 3 mega pixel image)  as supported by the 30inch Dell LCD. Not only that but it supports uncompressed Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. HDCP is problemantic, but thats just a small subset of the problems with Blu-Ray.

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Collections with digital locks

XKCD cartoon on DRM

This came up on the backstage mailing list today. I'm sure most people will shake there heads knowing there's a whole lot of truth in what's been drawn. But for those who are not, can I remind them of the nightmare some customers are having with Walmart. Apple were also threating to leave the digital music store business a while back, which would have screwed over tons of people. This is another reason why I only buy Mpeg3s and Flacs from stores like Audiojelly. I've started adding a section to my data portability talk about the trouble with DRM because its such a problem.

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