Dream recording device possible, better get mydreamscape.org up

Go Deeper

My boss Adrian sent me a very interesting tweet which linked to a article on bbc news from Nature.

Dream recording device ‘possible’ researcher claims

Writing in the journal Nature, scientists say they have developed a system capable of recording higher level brain activity.

"We would like to read people’s dreams," says the lead scientist Dr Moran Cerf.

The aim is not to interlope, but to extend our understanding of how and why people dream.

Theres some interesting parts to the article including this one.

"There’s no clear answer as to why humans dream," according to Dr Cerf. "And one of the questions we would like to answer is when do we actually create this dream?" Dr Cerf makes his bold claim based on an initial study which he says suggests that the activity of individual brain cells, or neurons, are associated with specific objects or concepts.

He found, for example, that when a volunteer was thinking of Marilyn Monroe, a particular neuron lit up. By showing volunteers a series of images, Dr Cerf and his colleagues were able to identify neurons for a wide range of objects and concepts – which they used to build up a database for each patient. These included Bill and Hilary Clinton, the Eiffel Tower and celebrities. So by observing which brain cell lit up and when, Dr Cerf says he was effectively able to "read the subjects’ minds".

I’m really interested in this stuff too. My thought is somewhat consistent with the memetics theory.

A meme, analogous to a gene, is an idea, belief, pattern of behaviour (etc.) which is "hosted" in one or more individual minds, and which can reproduce itself from mind to mind. Thus what would otherwise be regarded as one individual influencing another to adopt a belief is seen memetically as a meme reproducing itself. As with genetics, particularly under Dawkins’s interpretation, a meme’s success may be due its contribution to the effectiveness of its host (i.e., a the meme is a useful, beneficial idea), or may be "selfish", in which case it could be considered a "virus of the mind."

Anyway, before I drop into the theory behind dream science and how one method is maybe better that the other… Some people have wondered whats happened to mydreamscape.org?

Well at the moment I’m running a modified version of Status.net (open microblogging system) in the backend. I’ve decided that after watching the Social network (the facebook movie) its maybe more important that I get something up even if it doesn’t have all the functionality that I described or would want in the previous blog post or the slideshow. So right now I’m taking the advice from Imran Ali and dropped the ability to hide stuff (levels).

On the system side, I’m ummming and errrring between a few options…

  1. Ideally I would have the framework which runs Flickr (hopefully Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield are listening) and I would adapt it to mydreamscape.org.
  2. Second ideal option I would use Diaspora once its publicly available. I’m watching it with quite keen interest.
  3. Thirdly I would use W3c’s Anotea server if I can actually work out how to install it. That would mean you would need to download some browsers extras to comment, collaborate and annotate other peoples dreams. But then you would have a robust annotation system instead of just comments.
  4. I’ve consider using a standard solution like drupal and even alfresco to do the bulk of the work. In actual fact I’m very interested in Drupal because I spotted the Drupal Social Network Framework (unfortunately it seems very early days).
  5. Using microblogging platform Status.net, Blojsom or WordPress with maybe Anotea as a kicker for real annotations.
  6. Write something custom…

In addition I’ve started writing my own dreams down in an app called Rednotebook which is an example of the kind of app I would like to attached to mydreamscape. Maybe once things are up and running I could modify the source code to include sync with mydreamscape.org or something…

I also have something big up my sleeve for mydreamscape.org and its founded on Ludicorp’s original idea for Flickr (Game Never Ending). Have a guess what it is…

Claudia Winkleman hosts Film 2010, hold back the sexist stereotypes

From Den of Geek’s Claudia Winkleman vs the People.

Claudia Winkleman is a sexy woman. Some male nerds are uncomfortable around sexy women. Some women certainly don’t like or trust other sexy women. A lot of people, both male and female, indulge in nerdy pursuits to escape from the pressures and perils of dealing with the opposite sex and sexuality itself. If you then unbalance that equation with some misjudged sex appeal they get confused and angry, like at the impossibly perfect models who present shows about Starcraft on Anerican videogame websites, or at the sexy Spock who snogs Uhura (not logical, apparently).

I’m actually not that much of fan of Claudia Winkleman but I got to say there is something very sinister (hinging on sexist) running through the criticism of why she shouldn’t be hosting BBC’s Film 2010 show. I actually thought you she did alright and after the shock of seeing her on the show (I just happen to have the TV on and was expecting Jonathan Ross) I did check out some of the comments across twitter and the blogs (not singling anyone out except the Daily Mail). But alas Den of geek hits the issue where I’m thinking.

Let me be clear about something: I’m not saying that if you are male, and you don’t like Claudia Winkleman, then it would follow that you are a raging sexist powered by the heady combination of hatred, lust and jealousy. What I would argue that it is a combination of her femininity (she’s the opposite of a tomboy like, say, Emily Booth), attractiveness, and track record on reality shows that makes her so unpalatable to many male viewers.

Gabby Logan and Emily Booth both had to prove themselves up to the task by being better informed and better presenters than the majority of their male counterparts, and this is the area where Winkleman is ultimately going to live or die – is her film knowledge up to scratch?

It a sad fact but yes you need to be better that your counterparts. You almost have to shock your counterparts into believing you are amazing. The recent character assassination of Claudia Winkleman has got me thinking about woman geeks again. Of course we are going to explore this at a much deeper level at the series of talks we got setup starting with geeks talk sexy on 19th November at Madlab.

But a geek very much respect for her frank thinking and amazing insight is Tara Hunt, whos been thinking a lot more about her personality in the context of the Facebook movie.

If I had a penis and was 10-15 years younger, there would probably be a movie about me, too. But I’m not. I’m a woman who has been told since she was a young girl that she needs to be quieter, more humble, more demure, more agreeable, more attractive, less outspoken, less ambitious, less aggressive and more ‘woman’-like. I was highly unpopular growing up because I didn’t feel the need to fit a mould. I learnt as soon as I did fit a mould, I was rewarded. I got the academic awards and accolades? I was ostracized + called a show-off. Nobody wanted to be my friend. When I slacked off, dressed pretty and laughed at the boys stupid jokes? I was popular! This didn’t change in adult life, either (don’t even get me started on how dating advice on how a woman ‘should act’ fits into this whole mess)

There will be lots more of this type of analysis at Geeks talk sexy… But for now its worth saying there is something sinister, I’m also saying its not all out sexism but there is certainly a need to change the script.

Simple VPN – Hamachi vs Remobo vs Wippien

I use to love Hamachi, it use to simply work and it was very secure. The only problem is it got picked up by log me in and therefore hasn’t been developed in the way I would have liked. The Windows version has been developed but the linux and mac version are lagging behind in the lab. I also would like to see a Android app like how someone created a Windows mobile version.

So I looked into alternatives because to be frank, I still don’t really understand PPTP VPN or IPSEC VPN.

The two I’ve seen which are similar to Hamachi is n2n, Remobo and Wippien.

  • N2N – I just don’t quite get. It sounds fantastic but not at a mature enough stage right now. It requires a lot of manual effort to get up and running. And to be fair it didn’t work for me.
  • Remobo – Has a Gui but for some reason it won’t auto-loggin on ubuntu in so I have to enter the details each time I reboot. This is not great when you have it running on a server with limited access like no monitor. Once they fix that problem and finish the command line version, I may consider switching.
  • Wippien – Seems pretty good it uses xmpp to do the connection but you can’t join the network on the linux version because you can add new users. So unfortunately I wasn’t able to use it or test it. Very frustrating because I had high hopes for this one.

So right now, I’m going to stick with Hamachi but my eyes are certainly looking else where. Wippien and Remobo once mature and add real support for Linux, then Hamachi should be worried, theres some stiff competition coming.

The official XBMC android remote control

I downloaded the official Android XBMC remote a little while after using another android remote control for quite a while.

When I first saw it I thought whats so special about this remote which makes it the official xbmc remote?

Well that was before one day I was watching Breaking Bad catching up with the seasons and my phone rang but not only that the show paused and a little xbmc popup came up saying exactly who was ringing with a little icon. I was so shocked I actually missed the call. This was followed with a text message from my voicemail service saying I had a new message. It was so seamless and I had no idea the android remote had this built in, so I looked through the settings and found these interesting options.

  • Statusbar notification
  • Show incoming SMS
  • Show incoming calls

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the check list for features is something out of a dream. Here’s a couple of the most interesting ones.

  • Control XBMC’s volume directly with your device’s volume buttons
  • Manage multiple XBMC instances
  • On incoming call, display who’s calling on TV screen and pause video until call is over
  • On incoming message, display on TV screen
  • Setting that prevents your phone locking the screen. You can apply it either for remote control only or all screens (or disable it completely)
  • Cover art is shown where available
  • Play and queue albums, songs, genre selections and much more directly without having to turn on your TV. For instance it’s possible to queue/play all songs from an artist but of a certain genre.
  • Displays movie poster and actor thumbs where available.
  • Play trailer from details page where available.
  • Coming soon theres also some more really interesting features…
  • Boxee compatibility
  • Download media locally to device’s SD card
  • Stream media to device
  • Rating support in Now playing
  • Last.FM integration

All this functionality has really made me give up the wii-mote as the preferred method of controlling XBMC. I’d suggest a couple more things like trans-coding (so you can take away a copy which isn’t multiple gigabytes), send to xbmc (bit like send to xbmc or xbmcfox), a locale plug-in (might be handy), a proximity sensor option (if you walk out the room for example it will pause or even stop after a while xbmc) and the ability to see additional media or even fansubs on the device its self.

Ikea hacker, turn your studio flat into a one bedroom apartment

The new look room

I saw this on Ikea Hacker the other day while reading my Kindle.

A guy converted his studio flat into a one bedroom flat using the PAX sliding cupboard. The exact same one I got at home in my new place.

I can’t imagine anyone wanting to have their bed in their living room, so we started to brainstorm. We discussed ever type of foldaway bed and room divider. Then we found IKEA’s PAX sliding cupboard doors.

I wish I was better at the DIY but I’m rubbish. I had to pay a guy to put up my shelves in the kitchen the other day. But hey we can’t be good at everything…

Boxee the box – Nov 10th

What a dilemma.

I really like the idea of the boxee box and hearing its going worldwide from the November 10th fills me with a lot of joy. However I can’t really put down the money (£199) to buy one specially because my current XBMC/Boxee box is doing the job just fine.

In actual fact, what I’d really like is just the remote at this moment, because my wii-mote seems to have been damaged in the move and although I like the official XBMC android remote. Its a bit of a pain when my phone goes to sleep or powers down (Even though I do use locale to automatically turn off the lock screen when I’m at home).

Oh well at least I got the choice…

The end of optical media? Goodbye Blu-ray…

Ben metcalfe has a blog post about Apple’s move to remove all optical drives from there new range of laptops.

You can install an operating system from any external drive – it doesn’t have to be a DVD, it can be a USB disk, external hard drive or even an SD card. But you do need some kind of external disk, in case you can’t boot into the laptop, leaving the OS as the only piece of software that needs to be delivered via physical medium.

You can already download iLife and iWorks via the internet and license them online. And with the announcement of the App Store for Mac, Apple is clearly signaling the end of physical distribution of software.

Tell the truth although I quite like the idea of optical drives, I’ve lived without them for years. I had a Toshiba tablet PC back when I was in university/college and it had no optical drive but lots of flash media slots. I guess now the Mac supports SD its a lot easier to imagine the ability to remove optical drives.

So in one mind, I’m thinking great but something also comes to mind, and ben’s on the money with this.

Finally, if you subscribe to the Steve Jobs way of consuming media, the CD and DVD also dead there too. All the music, tv and films you could ever want are available for download via iTunes – be it to your Mac, iPhone or AppleTV.

Even if you consume your media independently, the Amazon MP3 store, music-on-demand services such Pandora and the continued widespread use of p2p all support the end of the physical distribution of media. NetFlix (probably anticipating this) are about to release a streaming-only service very soon too.

If you subscribe to the Steve Jobs way of thinking. Well I don’t but I’m interesting in the battle between online media and optical drives. Steve Jobs has always seemed to hate Blu-ray and I’m wondering if this strategy will shift to the desktop machines too? I’m sure control over all entertainment media is in Steve Jobs master plan somewhere?

Windows Mobile finally gets with the programme

I know a lot of people have hated the Windows Phone 7 adverts but I don’t know I kind of like it.

There are times when we (me and my friends) and we do all pull out our phones and twitter, facebook, 4square, etc. It does look a little stupid but hey what can you do? Ideally our phones should be more transparent but right now there still a status symbol. Its part of the reason why I like apps like Locale. A little bit of automation is certainly what I think the mobile is good for, and its consistent with the idea of the mobile as the life remote.

BBC Backstage – The End of an Era

So there’s been talk about the end of BBC backstage for a while and in certain circles its been heavily discussed.

As has been discussed recently in the press and various channels online, the BBC has taken the decision to close BBC Backstage in December 2010. Given the report recently in the Guardian Tech blog this no doubt comes as little surprise to most. However, I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain why this decision was made and what it means for the BBC as an open innovator in the future.

BBC Backstage has been a great success. I am very proud to have worked with the team on numerous projects. It was the forerunner to many other emerging, successful initiatives and has made a valuable contribution in driving the BBC towards genuine open innovation. In many ways it has been very much of its time.

More details will follow over the next few weeks but I can say…

  • I am not out of a job instead I’ve been planning to do more research for a while
  • The BBC have not done this behind my back (I’m still off work on sick leave)
  • We had planned to shutdown BBC backstage since May but thats exactly when I had my bleed on the brain, so everything got pushed
  • I had planned to do an announcement at Thinking Digital 2010 in Newcastle
  • I’ve been behind backstage for about 4 years and I really do care about this amazing innovative project
  • I’m not the only person whos been involved in its success. James Boardwell, Ben Metcalfe, Matthew Cashmore, Rain Ashford, Ant Miller and Brendan Crowther all have worked for BBC Backstage.
  • Also Matt Locke, Tom Loosemore, Jem Stone, Huw Williams and Adrian Woolard have managed the slippery beast which is BBC Backstage. Oh and never forget Sarah Mines the BBC Publicist whos work life was changed when she got bbc backstage as her new project.
  • Although there was lots of events and large scale prototypes which will be talked about over the next few months. Please please don’t forget the small prototypes, events and sponsorship which bbc backstage was responsible for, as those matter as much as the big stuff.

Hopefully over the next few months, we’ll explain the impact backstage has had on the BBC as a whole and why all good things must come to a end.

Welcome to Steve Jobs distortation field, where open is closed


Steve jobs is a tricky figure, theres no doubt about that. When he talks, you can feel the distortion field emerging from everything chosen word he uses. As I’ve always said Steve Jobs and Apple are against choice and therefore freedom. Evidence? Well theres tons this week

Steve jobs slagged off Android saying Android is too difficult to build for due to many different types of handsets. He then said "Twitterdeck" (yeah I know – think he meant Tweetdeck, has he got any clue about social media? This wouldn’t be a problem if he didn’t use it as a example) was having a nightmare developing for Android.

Steve Jobs’ amateur sleuthing last night brought up that gorgeous TweetDeck chart showing the vast variety of Android handsets out there, which the Apple CEO used to illustrate the "daunting challenge" he perceives developers have to face when creating apps that work across all devices and OS builds for the platform. Only problem with his assertion (aside from Steve calling the company TwitterDeck)? His opposite number on the TweetDeck team thinks nothing could be further from the truth: "we only have 2 guys developing on Android TweetDeck so that shows how small an issue fragmentation is."

Next evidence.

"Let’s talk about the avalanche of tablets. First, there are only a few credible competitors. And they all have seven-inch screen. This size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps."

"And this size is useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size. We’ve done extensive testing and 10 inches is the minimum tablet size."

"Given that tablet users will have a smartphone in their pocket, there’s no point in giving up screen size. Seven inch tablets are tweeners — too big to be a phone, and too small to compete with the iPad."

What a load of crap, if people want something smaller then the Android tablets are ideal to serve them. In Steve Jobs head, a 12inch tablet might be ideal but for the rest of us, its too big and too heavy to be really useful. Once again choice is the key word here. If you like the idea of smaller tablets, then Apple isn’t offering you the choice. Most iPad users I speak to wonder when the camera version is coming.

Even more crap…

We think this open versus closed argument is a smokescreen that hides the real question: What’s better for users, fragmented versus integrated?

"We believed integrated will trump fragmented every time."

"We are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google characterizes it as closed, and we believe that it will triumph over the fragmented approach, no matter how any times Google characterizes it as open."

Android is fragmented, we all knew it would happen but thats not a excuse to give up your choice. I have friends who would like a physical keyboard why penalize them for this? For some people the touch screen isn’t friendly, but steve jobs doesn’t care about them. In actual fact its "Its my way or the highway!"

iOS is closed and google are right to call it so.

Finally in Q&A

One of these days we’ll eventually learn the Android numbers, and I imagine we’ll compete with them for a very long time. But we have very different approaches — ours is to make devices that just work.

Oh yeah of course just work? I’m very sure Android developers are thinking the same. Your not alone in that steve. No in actual fact your only interested in telling people through hardware and software how to live there lives.

Welcome to the steve jobs distortion field…

Are raw files the negatives of photos?

So as you may have seen, I bought a negative scanner which actually works on ubuntu. But it got me thinking, since I lost a ton of photos back when I screwed around with my server hard drives a while ago, its great that old photos came with negatives.

I didn’t even remember that photos came with negatives till a friend pointed it out to me one day while I was talking about how I use to take photos at school and sell them to friends (one of my long forgotten entrepreneur enterprises at school).

But now what happens?

You don’t get negatives with digital cameras of course.

Are raw files the negatives of digital cameras?

Are we all expected to be excellent digital archivists?

So now is a good time to learn how to install dropbox on x64 linux I think, although I’m also thinking about paying the money for Ubuntu One too.

At last a cheap Negative film scanner which works with Linux

negative film scanner

I’ve done the research and finally I found a negative film scanner which works with gnu/Linux (ubuntu). Its the Maplins Film and Slide Digital Scanner. It works exactly how I would expect it to. You scan the slides into the memory of the machine or even on to a SD card then you connect the whole device to a pc via usb port to transfer the images out of the device.

The only issue I’ve seen is, you can’t scan while the device is connected to a pc, which is a pain because it charges/powers over USB (even ejecting the device doesn’t help). The device has a total of 30meg of on board storage is pretty shocking specially when your scanning photos at 5 mega pixel. Of course adding the SD card (it doesn’t support SDHC either) you can get loads more space.

The device is great, it did cost £50 but you can pretty much do most of the scanning while sitting on the sofa. Now if only there was a quicker way to scan through my long history of camera negatives. I got about 60 negatives to go.

Inbox zero?

Not likely…

My inbox at work
24k of unread messages

I’m planning to put all the unread messages from while I was away in the DMZ folder and then pretty much dump them all in the trash bin once I go back to work. So if you’ve contacted me during the time I was off due to the bleed on my brain, then tough luck. I won’t be answering back sorry… There is no way I’m going to run through 24k of unread messages from May – October

Geeks talk sexy…. *new date* (now on the 19th November)

Excellent photo by hoyvinmayvin – cc: by-nc-sa

Sex and geeks don’t fit together or compute, most would say. However the truth may be the total opposite.

This quarter we take a brave step into the explicit adult world of sex, lies and alternative lifestyles by following the geek world underground.

Join us on the wild ride in to the unknown, in a series of open talks and discussions. Next stop sexy town.

The event is free to attend, but you MUST BE OVER 18.

We have a new date for geeks talk sexy, so don’t miss out, sign up now!!!

Channel4’s TV Phoneshop, Deal or no deal and Come dine with me

Since I’ve been at home recovering from my brush with death. I’ve started watching a lot more TV. This has been a bit of shock for people that know me. He’s the ones I watch the most, weirdly there mainly Channel4.

Come dine with me

I love this series, its very simple. Take 4/5 strangers then every night a guest cooks for the rest of the group in there home. At the end of the evening, the guests mark the food and dining experience out of 10. At the end of the week we see who has the highest score and that person gets the prize fund of £1000.

The concept is so simple and works for strangers, celebs, sports stars, almost anyone. I’ve even heard that some of my friends have done a personal come dine with me with other friends. Although I got to say thats got to be one of the quickest ways to loose friends and cause massive rows.

The best part of come dine with me has to be the voice over which points how nutty the guests are. Its cheap throw away television but cleverly put together


This is a brand new series from Channel4, its only on episode 3 but I got to say its had me in stitches, mainly because the characters are simply crazy and I also know people who actually talk and interact in the same way. The South London urban accent and setting makes the whole thing even more funny. Specially since I spent a good few years there myself.

I’ve included a clip at the very top of the post, if you don’t get the humor maybe its just not for you.

Deal or no Deal

22 boxes, no one knows whats in the box. The player picks a box and picks off boxes till there is only two boxes left. Hopefully the player has picked a box with a quarter of million inside and opens it to find it. The external force is the banker which changes everything.

My ex-wife says this is a game for those who don’t understand probability but you know what I’m not so sure. I can only talk about the UK version (as like most game shows theres versions all around the world).

There’s a strategic point running through the game which the game kind of glosses over.

I first thought the banker would simply offer offers which were the average of whats left in the boxes, but thats not the case. In actual fact its a bit of a poker game, if the banker thinks the player will go on and believes in the box, the banker will offer higher amounts to put the player off. If the player seems shaky and a little nervous, the banker will put in slightly lower offers, hoping the player will go for it. So theres a bit of interaction from a far.

The game’s deceptively simple format has attracted attention from mathematicians, statisticians, and economists as a study of decision making under risk: It is an excellent instructive example of the application of utility theory.

In 2004, a team of economists played a scaled-down version of the game with 84 participants and compared the results with the expected utility hypothesis. The study received a great deal of media attention, appearing on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on January 12, 2006 as well as being featured on National Public Radio in the United States on March 3, 2006.

So its the game strategy which interest me about the gameshow.

I may also have a member of my family going on deal or no deal in the near future, so I’ll be filling them in on all the strategy behind the game.