Storytlr joins Sweetcron in the opensourced club

Storytlr: we're now open

Full credit to the guys behind storytlr, they have fully open sourced the storytlr platform in record time under the Apache 2.0 licence.

As promised a while ago, we are open sourcing our platform. A first version is now available at with a detailed set of instructions on how to install.

With this code, you can host your own storytlr on your own server (or on a shared hosting environment). By default, it is setup as a single user mode, but you can easily change it to a multi user host and therefore reproduce the exact service we are hosting on the current

If you remember they announced they were shutting down the service a while back, they want to move on to bigger and better things. Funny enough in that period Sweetcron also went open source and the creator moved on to something else. Sweetcron is GNU GPL 3.0 licensed and seems a lot harder to install that Storytlr.

Right now I'm still using for but I am going to install Storytlr and switch it over when I get the chance. I'd also like to do some changes to the code to support APML for one of my projects, I had also considered using storytlr lightly to dynamically pull together BBC backstage media and something very special which I won't reveal yet.

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Canvas for everyone

Been quite quiet about Project Canvas for a while. But since its gotten approval from the BBC Trust, I'm sure I can talk about it openly like most things on my blog. Although its fair to say I do work for the BBC and my views do not ever represent my employer (blah blah). I know people working on project canvas and they already know my views.

So first for those catching up what is it?

Project Canvas is the current working name given to a proposed endeavour concerned with internet-connected television – also know as internet protocol television (IPTV) – for the United Kingdom market. It is intended to combine broadcast content (including that currently available via Freeview and FreeSat, and digital radio) with broadband content, delivering both through the television (as distinct from the computer).

The endeavour's core principle is around developing a set of standards – including both technical and content standards – that, once confirmed, will be open to the industry as a whole. These standards will be used to create the necessary hardware (such as set top boxes) and programming content to allow for content typically accessed via the computer on the internet to be delivered to the television, combined with existing digital terrestrial television.

An analogy used often is that Project Canvas is aiming to be the equivalent of Freeview (in the UK) for IPTV and internet video. Like Freeview, Canvas is proposed to have a joint venture structure, the standards will be implemented by way of certification of the set top box devices[2 – S.2.3.3], and the BBC Executive has also stated that the Project Canvas venture itself will not manufacture, sell or support the hardware, and will not create, aggregate or retail any content, or act in any way like an ISP.

Theres a video floating around which Paidcontent captured just before Christmas of Erik talking and showing what Canvas could look like and act like.

Nice stuff but hardly anything to rivial the likes of XBMC, Plex, Boxee or other things creaping in like Roku. Heck I'd even say Sky's Xbox 360 option isn't bad but after playing with it on a friends Xbox over Christmas, its obvious that there still thinking very much about video on demand and a little dusting of social on a new platform. Boring, specially when you got one of the most powerful interactive devices on the market your using as the platform. Anyway back to Canvas. So its a marriage of the broadband with broadcast? Not really unless they were getting married in the early 1900's where men could legally do unspeakable things to there partners. Without stereotyping or being disrespectful, but this marriage is unevern and borked, aka broadband is the beotch. All the partners on board maybe excluding TalkTalk are somewhat broadcasters in someway (even BT have BT Vision). There's not a single Internet company involved and can you blame them? Whats in it for them? Canvas is what a broadcaster would build if they were trying to marry the internet with there own medium.

Saying all that, I'm actually a big supporter of Canvas and actually the BBC should be doing this. Why? Well Peter Evers sums up what I think in a comment to his post.

What I’m basically saying is that while other initiatives like Xbox’s, Plexx, Boxee or NetTV focus on one device (a console, a Macm a Philips tv set), Canvas is possible on every tv with a set top box, which literally is every tv in the UK. The BBC are a party that will have the scope to make this really succesful. It’s not just about the technology, a lot of the success of new technologies depends on the party introducing it and its motives.

The BBC as an initiator makes it available for all of UK, not just people with fancy Macs or Philips TV sets or teenagers with an Xbox. For the 35% of the UK population without internet but WITH a set top box this could just be the thing that gets them online.

Right on the money, canvas should be the default option like Freeview for everyone in the UK. If you want a better experience of how broadband and broadcast can work together, you might have to look elsewhere for now at least. But for now Canvas is the next Red button, it will look old hat in a few years but more and more people will use it and get use to it. It will be a way of life like how Teletext is for alot of people still. This is a good thing, this is what a public broadcaster should do. Peter Evers does ask the million dollar question, how open will canvas be?

Besides, BBC wants to make this platform completely open, which I’m sure Philips, Plexx and Microsoft won’t do. In their case it will always have some sort of link with a certain hardware product.

I'm not in total agreement Boxee is already pretty open, so oepn you can build apps and heck run your own apps store on there platform. Can't see Microsoft, Philips, Virgin, Apple or others doing the same. Like Dlink, I wouldn't be suprised if more hardware makers take on projects like XBMC in the future. But thats fine, those might do well in other markets but for my parents I look forward to seeing them on Canvas soon.

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Not all ereaders are the same

As we count down to end of 2009, the emerging star of this year's holiday shopping season is shaping up to be the electronic book reader (or e-reader). From Amazon's Kindle to Barnes and Noble's forthcoming Nook, e-readers are starting to transform how we buy and read books in the same way mp3s changed how we buy and listen to music.

Unfortunately, e-reader technology also presents significant new threats to reader privacy. E-readers possess the ability to report back substantial information about their users' reading habits and locations to the corporations that sell them. And yet none of the major e-reader manufacturers have explained to consumers in clear unequivocal language what data is being collected about them and why.

As a first step towards addressing these problems, EFF has created a first draft of our Buyer's Guide to E-Book Privacy.

ebook privacy graph

Like I was saying not all ereaders are the same and for me the Sony is the logical way to go.

I just upgraded from the Sony PRS 505 to the Sony PRS 600 which is better known as the Sony Touch Reader, due to its touch screen. My only regret is the screen on the touch isn't as nice and shiny as the 505, in actually fact when put side by side its quite bad, as this video show. But on the plus side, the refresh rate is 3x as fast, I can now search and make notes alongside my ebooks. Also I'm glad to say the Sony Touch reader keeps all the open features of the 505, aka no spying on what books I'm reading or even the need for software to transfer books. What really impressed me however, was the format of the notes and annotations. Yep thats right all in XML and easy to get at because the device mounts like a USB drive. So I'll be writing some TomboyNotes converter/transformer via Conduit soon I expect. And if that wasn't enough, the freehand sketch notes on the touch reader are also in XML/SVG. Which means with a bit of work, it should be easy to convert/transform a rough sketch in a meeting into something which I could use in Inkscape later. Very impressed that Sony kept things simple, open and transparent.

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The Psychology of Being Scammed

I love reading about social engineering type stuff, and this paper (PDF) by Paul Wilson and Frank Stajano is ideal Christmas after turkey reading. Schneier has the low down as usual.

This is a very interesting paper: “Understanding scam victims: seven principles for systems security,” by Frank Stajano and Paul Wilson. Paul Wilson produces and stars in the British television show The Real Hustle, which does hidden camera demonstrations of con games. Frank Stajano is at the Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge.

The paper describes a dozen different con scenarios — entertaining in itself — and then lists and explains six general psychological principles that con artists use:

  1. The distraction principle. While you are distracted by what retains your interest, hustlers can do anything to you and you won't notice.
  2. The social compliance principle. Society trains people not to question authority. Hustlers exploit this “suspension of suspiciousness” to make you do what they want.
  3. The herd principle. Even suspicious marks will let their guard down when everyone next to them appears to share the same risks. Safety in numbers? Not if they're all conspiring against you.
  4. The dishonesty principle. Anything illegal you do will be used against you by the fraudster, making it harder for you to seek help once you realize you've been had.
  5. The deception principle. Things and people are not what they seem. Hustlers know how to manipulate you to make you believe that they are.
  6. The need and greed principle. Your needs and desires make you vulnerable. Once hustlers know what you really want, they can easily manipulate you.

It all makes for very good reading. Two previous posts on the psychology of conning and being conned.

Talking of Schneier, he was talking in London on the 11th December and although I was in town I couldn't make the event. Luckily someones recorded the lot and put it up online.

Bruce Schneier did a benefit gig for Open Rights Group last Friday and here's the video of his 'Future of Privacy' talk and the 45-minute Q&A.

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Most Downloaded Movies on BitTorrent, 2009

There are quite a few differences between popularity at the box office and on BitTorrent. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and 2012 are ranked 2nd and 4th based on their worldwide grosses but didn’t make it into the top 10 list of most swapped movies.

On the contrary, RocknRolla is the third most pirated movie on BitTorrent this year, but with a minuscule worldwide revenue of $25 million it was ranked just 168th at the box office in 2008 when the movie came out. Part of the success of RocknRolla is that it was released by the infamous uploader aXXo whose releases are always guaranteed to have at least a few million downloads.

Taken from TorrentFreak

rank movie – downloads = worldwide grosses

  1. Star Trek – 10,960,000 = $385,459,120
  2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – 10,600,000 = $834,969,807
  3. RocknRolla – 9,430,000 = $25,728,089
  4. The Hangover – 9,180,000 = $459,422,869
  5. Twilight – 8,720,000 = $384,997,808
  6. District 9 – 8,280,000 = $204,570,836
  7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – 7,930,000 = $929,359,401
  8. State of Play – 7,440,000 = $87,784,194
  9. X-Men Origins: Wolverine – 7,200,000 = $373,062,569
  10. Knowing – 6,930,000 = $183,260,464

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Experimental Compiz Fusion Plugins

Ubuntu has build in support for Compiz fusion now called just compiz since version 8.04 I believe. But the plugins included haven't really been increased in a while. So most of us are missing out on some of the creativity and downright oddness coming out of experiemental corners of the internet. Theres a whole page of how to get the plugins from GIT if you want to take a walk on the wild side.

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Wow! The universe as far as we currently know…

If you've never seen the start of Contact (the film with Jodie Foster) you're not only missing out on a great film but also a fantastic opening sequence which rolls back from present day earth out beyond out solar system and the milky way, way into the deep darkness of space. The Known Universe does the same but goes as far as we currently know (16.7 billion light years). Its amazing and worth watching in HD at full screen if possible.

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world's most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

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HP doesn’t care about black people

Amusing little video about the new HP webcams which don't track black faces, but will happily follow a white face. Racist no but Black Dezy did have me chuckling, specially since he bought one. Recognition software isn't always what it should be, for example some of those voice recongnition systems can't deal with the deepness in my voice and never catch any of the numbers or words I use. Very frustrating when you know your not the problem in the chain. I expect the camera just can't cope wit the lighting of the store/office and if you shine a light from the front it will work.

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Orange offer MMS to Twitter

Orange and Twitter

I only just saw this on the twitter blog….

The UK has had an outsized cultural impact on the world. From music to sports to literature… and now – MMS with Twitter.

Today, not only has Orange UK turned on Twitter SMS, but it has added a first-of-its-kind special enhancement. Orange UK users can also send picture messages (MMS) to 86444 in addition to text messages because of a site that Orange UK has created called Snapshot. The best part is that it is incredibly simple to use:

1. Take a photo on your Orange mobile phone
2. Select 'Send via MMS' or 'Send multimedia message'
3. Send it to 86444

Twitter does not charge for this service. It's just like sending and receiving messages with your friends — your carrier's standard messaging rates apply. Give it a try by sending a text message to 86444 with the word “START.” This means that with the same shortcode, 86444, UK users can tweet via SMS with Vodafone, O2, and now Orange.

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Learning XQuery

I'm convinced that Xquery is somewhat the non-elegent child of the xml family of technologies. Every single technology from XSL to Xpointer, Schema to XMLencryption seem to pick part of the puzzle and do that bit very well. So you can forgive me for thinking Xquery would only be useful for querying data from a xml database, somewhat the SQL of the XML world right? Nope, in actual fact its not only SQL but also PHP and the XML doesn't even have to be in a database at all. The crossovers with XSL is quite shocking for such a elegent family. Fear not, Xpath forms a large part of Xquery meaning us XSL lovers can jump straight in and feel a little at home with its strangely non-xml syntax, I actually quite like writing xml to create/transform xml. And if things get a little too weird in Xquery land, you can run for the beach by telling Xquery to do a XSL transformation on a tree of data instead.

Although it doesn't quite fit, its actually darn powerful and beats messing with XSP or other templating languages. For example, in about 6 easy to understand lines of Xquery, I was able to pull down a XHTML document, rip off its head element and append the body inside a ATOM feed. I could do the same with XSL but it would be much more lines and the way Xquery is setup, it seems to make more sense. One of the big issues people have with XSL is that it doesn't know anything about its environment. So for example calling the present time would require looking up a webservice or some other external logic like PHP, XSP, JSP, etc. Well with Xquery, you get all that type of logic which you could even pump into a XSL transform.

I'm learning Xquery right now mainly through Exist DB and this nice wikibook, which I converted to PDF using the wikibook system for offline reading and reference on my Ebook reader.

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Hitting the credit card companies where it hurts

I'm one of those people who doesn't carry around much cash, I'm that person who will pay for a coffee with a piece of plastic if possible. I know most of you hate me for doing so but its so much easier to track stuff later (yes I know this also means i'm also easier track too).

But what bugs me is going to places like computer fairs and having to either carry lots of cash, fiddle around with a cheque book (which the UK has decided to kill by 2018) or only use certainly suppliers because they accept cards. Talking to most suppliers, the number one reason why they don't accept cars is because Visa and Mastercard charge quite a bit extra on each transaction (yep everyone knows this) and they charge a lot to rent those pin machines. Yep talking to one it can be as high as a extra grand a month for those machines. Which is fine if your a business doing lots of transactions but not so great if your selling small goods at a computer fair.

In steps a new startup called which is trying to bypass the whole special pin machines by offering small retailers an suppliers the ability to take card payments on there own smartphones. Visa and Mastercard still make there usual transaction fee but at least the supplier doesn't have to rent some expensive machine in the hope someone will use their card.

Its all pretty neat, and I wish the guys luck. I had wondered if this was a classic example of emulating the pirates which have been using a similar device to collect stolen credit cards for a while now. So power to the suppliers, but I can certainly see this being exploited for many peoples gain. Proceed with lots of caution!

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Essential software for modern working

I saw this on Ben Metcalfe's blog recently…

It’s my first time working with RoR and I’m really enjoying the experience. Pivotal Tracker continues to be an amazing productivity tool for development, and I’m beginning to wonder how I ever worked before DropBox, EtherPad and BaseCamp.

Got me thinking what tools do I use which I just can't work without.

Dropbox is high on my list. First thing I do when installing a new machine is install dropbox, because has my desktop backgrounds, application settings and all types of good personal stuff which I use day in day out. I've also considered there pro upgrade for the purposes of work. Its like the promise of Webdav without the stress. I like the way I can work on a file on any of my ubuntu machines and then flip to my work windows machine and carry on where I'd left off. Save and Sync, then i'm back to my laptop. I use symbolic links to do drop torrents from anywhere, sync bookmarks and exchange configs. I want dropbox on my Sony Ereader and on my phone (Windows Mobile 6).

Basecamp I do use at work a lot. But to be honest in recent times its starting to look and feel the poor cousin of Googlewave, Etherpad, etc. Basecamp is great because its project management done to the level which I'm confidential I'm not spending time filling in crap like project but acting too loose like on a wiki. The problem is basecamp is a web only system and not only does that restrict what kind of projects I put on it but also makes it a pain to pay for it out of my own budget. What I really want is Basecamp inside of Wave as a robot and series of widgets or Basecamp with the ability to install on your own domain/server and federation support.

TomboyNotes is where I store all my notes which I can't remember. Its great and simple but I do wish it would work on my phone or at least as a webservice (Snowy will solve this problem). On the gnome desktop tomboynotes is quite well supported (plus it runs on all 3 main platforms), so theres plugins for a lot of things you may want but its not really as smart as Evernote which I started using but got fed up of due to their attitude to gnu/Linux users. Using, I'm also meant to be able to turn Tomboynotes into a lot of other things like a basecamp backpack (although this doesn't work for me anymore). I do use dropbox with tomboynotes, so I can sync notes between machines without a problem.

Hamachi is my personal VPN network I have on most of my own machines. It runs pretty smoothly on most of machines even old Pentium 3's. I keep wanting to go the either the OpenVPN (which I just don't get), Ntop N2N which I struggled to get going too) Wippien which has recently come to my attention as a Hamachi but with open decentralised lookup server. But I find myself using Hamachi for its pure ease and clever things it can do. For example because every node on the VPN act like local ethernet, you can use mnds/zeroconf, run pulseaudio from any home machine or use ssh/samba/webmin/vnc over VPN into any machine attached to the vpn.

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Next Generation DJ Competition

Next Generation DJ is a competition bought to you by internationally renowned dance music brands Pioneer, Beatport, DJ Magazine and It is set to be the biggest and most wide reaching DJ contest of all time. And we don't use these words lightly…

We’re setting out to discover and launch the next superstar DJ, and it’s all taking place on the world’s fastest growing mix platform,

So I'll be entering this one for sure. Once I sort out Virtualbox again with the pacemaker hardware, i'll start mixing up even more mixes that ever before. I got a massive back log of mixing to do. I had considered uploading one of my previous mixes. But the way the competition sounds, everyone will be doing plenty of post editing to increase the impact of the mixes.

Interestingly enough 8 of the top 10 djs of the world are trance djs.

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