Oh no… here comes the (so called) geek squad

Geek Squad comes to the UK

Oh yes if you've ever been to Best Buy in America, you can't help but notice the geek squad signs everywhere. Need a hand installing your DSL router, putting in memory, fixing your wireless, going to the toilet, feeding yourself… – Call for the geek squad.

But now there in the UK, yes scream and runaway. Trust me people, there not cheap and there certainly not good news. Thanks Carphone Warehouse for inflicting the pain of black and white beetle cars on our roads, and don't get me started on the actual (so called) geeks.

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Mashup* Identity 2.0

So first up I'm not that impressed with being invited to an event, turning up and not finding my name on the list. Then a slap in the face when I get hit with a bill for 35 pounds. Having no cash, means I'm forced to hand over my business card so they can invoice me. Not impressed!

Down into the BT showcase area and the magic of the not long gone BarCampLondon2. Who do I see? Nat Bat, my co-hoster from BarCampLondon2. Thank god because all I can see otherwise is lots of gray suits.

Tony Fish introduces the evening by ending with the words “how do we make money from this?” Enough said really

The first speaker gives a brief overview of the all the issues to do with identity. But never once talks about people owning their own identity. Richard Baker from BT now, finally he mentions user-centric and multiple identities/personas. He also mentions that fact we need to think about the other mediums in regards to identity. His example of call centres is good. Richard finalise his talk by pointing at the balance between risk, convince, costs. Nice sensible talk. Now Simon Wilison, so the wireless fucks up and simon can't show how it works – nightmare! So on with the show. After explaining the benefits of open ID in the Single sign on, simon talks about identity projection. Projecting your id from one system to another. Thankfully Simon mentions that OpenID isn't the silver bullet, there are caveats like trust. Simon gives a cut down talk from the future of webapps. Fast paced and maybe lost a few people but it was really good. At the end, Simon finally got to demo openID.

Now the Panel. Eger from the government slates openID because its too difficult for most users in the UK. Missing the point of Open ID, which is, its open and decentralized. Most of the questions about Open ID were easy pickings for Simon who rubbed his hands with glee when getting those OpenID 101 questions. There were some good questions banded around at the end but by then the hour long debate had gone on too long for most of us.

So generally Mashup reminds me of the events I use to go to when I first moved to London. There good if your into business but generally only scratch the surface and usually the people want to know how to make money out of the thing under the surface. I'm surprised no one just came out and said where do I make money out of Open ID, maybe because Simons slide on why the enterprise should be using OpenID was too clear?

The event was well run but I felt the most important person there was Simon and besides the internet screw up, he could have had more challenging questions at a geekdinner or something. I have to question the cost of the event too. Its quite a lot for 3x 10min talks and then a hour panel session. Yes there was buffet food and drinks for free but thats 35x 100+ people. Maybe I'm dead wrong but personally I didn't get much out of the evening except a couple of peoples contract details.

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Powerpoint Karaoke, what a wicked night!

Powerpoint Karaoke

Not many people turned up (maybe because of this thing)  for Powerpoint Karaoke but those who did really enjoyed the night of belly aching laughter and ever so odd presentations. I have a few photos which I've uploaded to Flickr but better still I have quite a few videos which I'll be uploading to Blip.tv.

Everyone agreed this is hysterical entertainment and can not wait for the next one. So if your one of the unlucky ones to miss out this time around, look out for the next one in maybe May/June. Its truly geek entertainment by geeks for geeks.

meta-technorati-tags=powerpointkaraoke, karaoke, powerpoint, presentation, ppt, funny, hysterical, geek, geekentertainment

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Hackday officially live – sign up now

hackday in Sunnyville

As previously mentioned on the backstage blog. Hackday.org is now official and you can sign up and grab yourself a ticket now.

The dates are the weekend of the 16th – 17th June at Alexander Palace (yes now it makes sense why I had pictures of the venue on my flickr stream)

Its a partnership between Yahoo! Developer Network and BBC Backstage, which we've been developing for quite sometime. Matthew Cashmore, Tom Coates, Matt McAlister and many others have been involved in this from the start.

As the hackday.org site says, stimulation will be provided in Food, Drinks, Feeds and APIs. Like BarCamp, you are welcome to play werewolf sorry hack or (sleep) through-out the night. Tomski's already offered his shower for Sunday morning. Its going to be a very cool event. No I won't
be doing a live DJ session from stage 1 afterwards but nor will Beck this time around.

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Want to explore the BBC archive?

Film cans

From Backstage

The BBC is looking for people to join a six-month trial in which 20,000 UK residents will get free access to hundreds of programmes from the BBC archive, including reports of historic events as they happened, ground-breaking documentaries, soaps, action-packed children's shows, sumptuous dramas, and comedy shows that thrilled the nation.

Interested? then you can now register your interest on the BBC Archive site

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Geekdinners, Werewolf, Delicious and Karaoke

Tom Loosemore plays ppt karakoe

There's changes on the way for geekdinners. Starting with PPT Karaoke

  1. The dinners are not changing, we're still planning on having them but maybe one every 1-2 months. I also won't be the only one hosting them now. I'm seeking keen and genuine volunteers to be involved with geekinners and its other events.
  2. We're going to put on a werewolf night every other month. Its such great fun and we always get a good turn out, so rather that doing adhoc, we're going to try putting them on regularly. If every other month is too little, we'll bump it up to every month.
  3. New geek games. Werewolf as we play it came back from O'reilly's FooCamp with Simon Willison and a couple others. They posed it at BarCampLondon, and its now become a stable diet for evening geek events and UK Barcamps. But there is more games out there which we could try, hence the next point.
  4. A Powerpoint Karaoke session happened at Etech 07 and Heatherscent was talking about how well it went down at BarCampLA3. So first time in the UK we're going to try it out and if it goes well, who knows it might become a regular night. Its gone down well other places too.
  5. Not forgetting the talent we have here in the UK, we're also going to play Del.icio.us Pecha Kucha, maybe along side PPT Karaoke. It was created and built for BarCampLondon and went down a storm in BarCampLondon2. I have got to link to the video of Meri Williams, Tom Coates and the rest playing this…
  6. We're planning to do more short notice dinners (yes real dinners) for when people are over but we can't get a venue in the short period of time we sometimes have. Like the dinner we had for Howard Rheingold. .

So in short we're getting more organized and more regular. But expect even more…

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Just discovered Xbox Media Centre has a Webish API

xbmc web interface on a psp

I was searching for the new Ajaxy Xbox media centre web interface, but came across documentation for the Xbox media centre's HTTPAPI. Which means I can completely control my xbox via a pipeline interface. However there are issues.

  1. Its all HTML
  2. Its not valid HTML
  3. It seems a little temperamental on Action commands

For example here's how to get what the Xbox is playing right now.


But it comes back like this.

<li>Filename:smb://stratrix/downloads/podcasts/The 1UP Show/041307.m4v
<li>File size:475954023

Although this is nasty, its still useful. How many media devices under your TV have some kind of API? How many devices around our house support some addressable API?

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Its all about the Metadata?

I like what this is saying, however I'd like to see some more examples…From those good people at NewTeeVee.

“What’s metadata?,” you might ask. Think of it as a layer of data describing content. In Joost’s example this could be anything from a simple timeline to tags to a full-grown programing guide.

The notion of using this type of data for some creative mashups first came up on the Ironic Sans blog, where a Joost fan by the name of David Friedman brainstormed about a feature that he would like to see in the client: The ability to share comments on the programming based on each show’s timeline. Says Friedman:

“Imagine watching a show like Heroes once, and then watching it again with comments turned on to see what other people caught that you missed.”

The concept of annotated television is definitely intriguing – especially if you package it into an easy-to-use application. But it wasn’t just the idea itself that made Friedman’s post interesting. Notable was also the first comment, made by someone who identified himself as Matt Hall:

“We’re already working on it. So far we have a rough passive version — a few bits of content have “trivia” that pops up at specified timestamps — but we plan eventually to allow timestamped tagging, commenting, annotation, etc.”

To be fair, we can’t know for sure if this is the same Matt Hall who works as a software engineer at Joost’s offices in Leiden. We do however know that Joost also hired Dan Brickley, who is one of the inventors of FOAF – a RDF-based metadata framework that makes it possible to transform simple web pages into machine-readable social networking nodes.

We also know that Joost makes extensive use of such metadata frameworks to build the programming and community features of its service. To quote Joost developer Leo Simons: “Not a day goes by without some of our developers swearing about ‘RDF’ or ‘metadata.’”

So what can these metadata frameworks be used for? Timestamped comments and tags are certainly one interesting possibility. Combine this with FOAF-like social networking structures, and you got yourself a whole new way to explore TV programming.

Oh by the way, we're planning a little festival in Edinburgh around the end of August . More details to come but if your interested in video, moving image and storytelling in the web space and the state of TV on line, brings you out in rants and raves. Drop me a email or look out for posts soon about the Edinburgh Fringe TV festival.

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I was thinking eRDF while reading about machine tags

Well not only eRDF but RDF generally, while reading Jeremy Keith's post about machine tags.

For now, I’ve gone ahead and integrated Flickr machine tagging here… but this works from the opposite direction. Instead of tagging my blog posts with flickr:photo=[ID], I’m pulling in any photos on Flickr tagged with adactio:post=[ID].

Now, I’ve already been integrating Flickr pictures with my blog posts using regular “human” tags, but this is a bit different. For a start, to see the associations using the regular tags, you need to click a link (then the Hijax-y goodness takes over and shows any of my tagged photos without a page refresh). Also, this searches specifically for any of my photos that share a tag with my blog post. If I were to run a search on everyone’s photos, the amount of false positives would get really high. That’s not a bug; it’s a feature of the gloriously emergent nature of human tagging.

For the machine tagging, I can be a bit more confident. If a picture is tagged with adactio:post=1245, I can be pretty confident that it should be associated with http://adactio.com/journal/1245. If any matches are found, thumbnails of the photos are shown right after the blog post: no click required.

I’m not restricting the search to just my photos, either. Any photos tagged with adactio:post=[ID] will show up on http://adactio.com/journal/[ID]. In a way, I’m enabling comments on all my posts. But instead of text comments, anyone now has the ability to add photos that they think are related to a blog post of mine. Remember, it doesn’t even need to be your Flickr picture that you’re machine tagging: you can also machine tag photos from your contacts or anyone else who is allowing their pictures to be tagged.

I like the idea of using your blog entry url as the predicate for the N3 triple (sorry) machine tag.

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Switching to Ubuntu on Desktop for real this time

The other day I was installing some new wireless points around the house. My very 1st generation Linksys 802.11b access point had pretty much had enough and needed to be put out of its pain. And the pocket Asus wireless point (smaller that a Airport express) wasn't really made for constant use.

Anyhow, I happen to flip the switch on the Belkin 10 way power supply under my desk. Off went the Desktop machine. Thought damm it, and switched the 10 way back on. Well Windows was screwed, so screwed that I had to reinstall it again. Only this time when I reinstalled it, it kept getting upset about the hardware and would restart its self.In the end I got so pissed off with the whole thing, that I threw the Windows CD across the room and went looking for my Ubuntu CD.

Within a few hours I had Ubuntu 6.10 dapper installed (had to do some data shifting with partition magic) and before you knew it all the applications I needed, thanks very much to Nat's guide to Ubuntu she sent me over Twitter. I had a few problems on the way including writing to NTFS partitions and getting Azureus to run correctly. However this evening I got all those working without too much work. Now I just need to clean things up, get Hamachi running and sort out the Samba shares.

So far, its all god…

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London XSL user group

Its been a long time coming but finally there is a London XSL user group starting. Its thankfully not run or setup by myself, instead Nic Ferrier and Otu Ekanem have taken it upon themselves to foster this user group.

We met at the Prince Regents Pub yesterday and there seemed to be agreement that a group meeting every month to discuss things happening in the XSL space outside of actual code was a good idea. No one wants to discuss the memory differences between using xsl:for-each in Xalan vs Saxon, so the group will centre around improving the image of XSL and helping people get into XSL in the first place.

It was reassuring to hear Thompson and BT were having the same issues hiring good XSL people as we are in the BBC. The fact is that most computer science university courses don't teach XSL and if they do its placed next to odd languages like Pascal (god I hope they don't still teach that) and Lisp for a couple of day.

Another interesting fact came out of the night, 2 out of the 6 of us came to XSL through a design background. Anyway expect to see more about the group at xslug.org

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Simply bad ebay scams

I've posted my old SPV M600  to ebay for the 4th ti now. Everytime I post it up, some scam artist tries to  con me out of my phone. Well I'm fed up of readying the phishing emails and so wanted to post them for others to read. So Ebay sent me this a while ago.

Dear Italic_dj

The results of the following listings have been cancelled due to bidding activity that took place without the account owner's authorisation:

160103815659 Orange SPV M600 + 2GB SD CARD Boxed and Used

We have temporarily suspended the bidding account and we are working with the account owner to prevent any additional unauthorised activity. Since the account owner did not initiate these bids, fees resulting from the listings in question have been credited to your account.

Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to automatically relist these items for you. Instead, to relist these items you will need to start from the beginning of the listing process, either through the Sell Your Item process or through your third party listing service. We know that this is an inconvenience and we apologise for the negative impact it may cause you. We are working on tools to allow you to relist your items without starting from the beginning, but they are not available at this time.

So the first email I got from the con-artist was this.

Hello, I am very sorry i have not been able to get back to you till now, i have taken such time because of the easter period. Just want to let you know that payment will be sent on monday or first thing on tuesday morning
Best Regards.

Then this crafted email from the con-artist to look like it came from ebay

Dear Ian Forrester

Failure to do as we have indicated in this email will lead to your suspension on eBay due to concerns we have for the safety and integrity of the eBay community.

“Abusing eBay” of the eBay User Agreement states, in part:

“…we may limit, suspend, or terminate our service and user accounts, prohibit access to our website, remove hosted content, and take technical and legal steps to keep users off the Site if we think that they are creating problems, possible legal liabilities, or acting inconsistently with the letter or spirit of our policies.”

This email is to inform you that you can now proceed with the transaction between you and Chris Marshall (argentium149) the buyer of your ebay item 160103815659. The transaction was initially cancelled because we noticed that someone else accessed the account and some transactions where made with the account without the owner's concept, which was complained to us by the account owner. This has been resolved and now, we are at the point of completely restoring the account back to the owner. You are expected to send out the item tomorrow because payment has just been sent by the buyer through paypal, your payment is currently placed on HOLD by us. As soon as the buyer confirms to us that he has received the shipment details from you and that everything is ok, your payment will be credited into your paypal account. Failure to send out the item tomorrow will lead to your suspension on ebay. Make sure the item is sent out tomorrow and the shipment details sent to the buyer for confirmation.

Then the conformation email from the con-artist himself

Hello There,

Just want to let you know that i have resolved all problems with ebay and that i have just sent payment for the ebay item I have also added a extra amount of money so as to cover the shipping cost of the phone to my son. I bought the phone for my son as gift. This is address where the phone should be sent to.

Name :- Okwuchukwu Ugochi
Address :- 1 Ojo Street, Off Babalola Bus-Stop
City :- Mushin
State :- Lagos
Country :- Nigeria
Postal Code :- 23401

I have also attached a copy of the confirmation email that paypal sent to me confirming payment, they have asked me to contact you for the shipment details. I want the phone sent to my son via royalmail international signed for delivery(Recorded). Let me have the royalmail reference number when it has been sent so i can contact ebay and paypal to let them.


And just incase I wasn't certain a fake email from PayPal.com

You've Received Payment for an eBay item!

Dear Ian Forrester,

Chris Marshall just sent you a payment of £300.00 GBP for an eBay item.

Chris Marshall is a verified buyer.
Payment Details Buyer's User ID: argentium149.
Buyer: Chris Marshall
Amount: £250.00 GBP
Postage & Packing: £50.00 GBP
Postal Insurance: £00.00 GBP
Total Amount: £300.00 GBP

Item Information
eBay User ID: argentium149

Delivery Information
Address: Okwuchukwu Ugochi
1 ojo street,off Babalola Bustop
Address Status:  Confirmed


This payment has been placed on Hold. We have asked the buyer to contact you for the shipment tracking/reference number, as soon as the buyer confirms to us that the item has been sent, your account will be credited immediately. This is the New Paypal antifraud rule, this is done in order to secure both buyers and sellers. The item should be sent out within 24 hours and the shipment details sent to the buyer.

So as you can see this is so obviously a con/scam. I didn't even need to look at the headers for the emails or check my Paypal account. The English was a mess in places, account details wrong and worst still it had all the hallmarks of a scam. That level of urgency, the tail for which to follow. I'm so fed up with scammer like this I think I might post them up here everytime to convine scammers that I'm serious about taking action.

You've been warned scammers!

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Apple TV hacks are making the box more attractive

Apple Store

Since Apple talked about the Apple TV or iTV I've been listening, but was deeply disappointed with the final product. When I was over in San Francisco I did pop into the Apple store to check out the Apple TV which I heard just launched recently. But at 299 dollars or 165 pounds I decided it was too much for essentially a iTunes extender.

That was before I came back to the UK, I started reading about the hacking which has been going on already. AppleTV hacks seems to be leading the way right now, and there certainly making the machine much more attractive to someone like me.

You can now play non-itunes videos via VLC, SSH, Apache, Asterisk and other services on the box. Joost is working on it (which even the Xbox couldn't do) and yeah a last a RSS reader.

The backdoor claim is a little worrying but actually think this is a repair script or something. Theres also lots of talk that the Apple TV isn't that powerful and can't play back 720p H.264 content let alone 1080p content. Now this may not sound like the end of the world, but actually for future proofing and remember Apple are selling this as a HD device. This could be bad news. I already own a couple of 1080p Xvids which simply won't play on my xbox right now but would play on a Xbox 360 and Playstation3.

So yeah, I'm considering the Apple TV for my replacement to the Xbox Media Centre if it can do most of the things XBMC can do. Such as stream straight from YouTube, connect to shoutcast, play all media, read from SMB and other file systems. Someone elses been thinking the same thing.

While in Columbus, we happened to pass through the Apple store, and I got my first look at the AppleTV. A slick piece of kit, to be sure, and one you'll be able to read all about at Ars Technica shortly, but not quite suited to my needs.  I want to be able to watch DivX files on my TV; it's the only way to keep up with TV from back home, and legally, too (thanks, Auntie Beeb!). Apple's beautiful little box can't help me out, but give my wife a used XBox, and 20 minutes later an XBMC media center is the solution to my needs.  Plus, it can stream BBC Radio 4 to boot! Sure, you can always open up and hack an AppleTV, but you do so at the cost of your warranty.  With secondhand hardware that's cheap, that's not a concern.

The arrival of our XBox 360 meant that our first XBox could be repurposed as the living-room media server. Now I don't need to keep plugging my PowerBook into the bedroom TV set, and Elle can pipe her music collection from her PC to her heart's content. It's not the sort of thing I'd suggest for my parents or anyone else of a technophobic nature, but if the AppleTV won't do what you want or if you prefer rolling your own, pop down to your local used video game emporium and see what's lurking in their stockroom. Apple TV certainly has its uses, but the original Xbox is easier to hack, cheaper, and has much more support from the hacking community right now than Apple TV. If you've not looked into XBMC, it's absolutely worth it. Depending on your needs, it may be a far superior option to Apple TV, or any of the other PC-to-TV devices out there today. 

Some people are looking at it slightly differently. Apple TV on Xbox anyone? And more here. Oh and theres a nice discussion about maybe porting XBMC to the mac.


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