I’m totally addicted to Ffffound.com, a web service that allows people to save and share their favourite images from the web; it’s full of utterly lovely visuals. Here are a few examples:
Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
I’ve yet to play ‘Second Life’ or any of those big massively-multi-player online games, although I’m vaguely interested (and slightly appalled) by the concept. Last night BBC2 screened a program titled ‘Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love’, documenting the story of a mother of four who abandons her family for an online lover in another continent. Needless to say, it ends badly.
Thanks to the wonders of the BBC iPlayer, you can watch it for another six days (’til Weds 6th Feb). It’s worth watching, and yet desperately sad; the concept of a second life preferable to your own is both dramatic and distressing.
It’s all enough to put Guardian journalist Sam Wollaston off the idea of creating a character (he chose the monikor ‘Rotting Albatross’) and starting to play.
“I’ll still do it, though. Rotting Albatross will have life breathed into him after all. But I’ve learned my lesson from Carolyn. He won’t be a hunk at all; he’ll be a shrivelled old hunchback, who lives in a hovel and goes around insulting people and killing dolphins. Everyone will hate him, and the sun will never shine. It will make my first life, in Dollis Hill, seem like paradise.”
The show, incidentally, is part of the ‘Wonderland’ series which, so far, has been absolutely brilliant. Last week’s show, ‘The Man Who Eats Badgers’ was even better. That’s still available to watch, too, for another 4 days. The filming and editing are absolutely beautiful, so go see.
Woo, look how long I’ve been away! Sorry everyone – I’ve got no internet at home so I’m back in front of a computer screen (and back at work) for the first time in ages today. I need to teach myself to blog all over again. In the meantime, here’s a nice little gadgety link I meant to post before Xmas, but never did.
Take a look at the Mix Tape USB stick. Awesome.
I meant to link to this a week or two ago, after my friend David pointed it out to me, but didn’t get round to it. Here then, is the Laptop Club. It’s a lovely project, one where a bunch of kids, aged around seven to nine, have designed and drawn their own laptops; the results, which give clear indications of the children’s interests, are really fascinating. It makes me realise how out of touch I am with children – having had precisely no contact with them, for the most part, since I was one – and how they ask for features I couldn’t possibly have predicted.
A lot, for example, include buttons labelled with animal names. It took me a few seconds to realise that these must refer to digital pets. Elsewhere there are buttons labelled ‘toys’, ‘ringtone’, ‘shopping’ and, more than once, the rather mystifying ‘special’. It hammers home how integrated computers now are into children’s play routine. Additionally the extent to which social lives are now complemented by online activity is truly staggering. I was 19 years old before I first emailed someone. Lots of the kids include buttons prioritised with the names of favourite friends, with buttons for bebo, myspace and messenger too. It’s interesting how so many of the children sideline the actual alphabet keys, stuffing the letters into uncomfortable corners, leaving space for gaming and web-related buttons. That’s to be expected, I suppose.
The button that I thought most interesting was ‘private’, which obviously has become an issue for children sick of their parents’ understandable interest in their online activities. ‘Secret’ is used too. Amusingly, one child squeezes in both ‘firewall’ and ‘cookies’, which is an indication of how technologically literate kids are now.
All this aside, I genuinely like the design of these things – apart from the fact that they are so lopsided, they actually look reasonably intuitive. I suspect that kids really would get something from these laptops that they lack with the standard keyboard layout. How nice it would be to see someone actually making a couple of prototypes. Of course, the one laptop per child machines are designed for kids, but I’m not much familiar with that design yet. Anyway, these drawings are most interesting, I think.
Meanwhile, and on a not entirely dissimilar subject, have a look at this, ‘cos it’s glorious. Dave Devries is an artist who specialises in redrawing children’s doodles as fully realised monsters. Amazing stuff. Some examples below, from The Monster Engine…
Returning to information I hope you’ve acted on by now – Assistant Blog has of course been shortlisted in the Brighton and Hove Web Awards. So, alas, has my chum Dan’s lame international development blog, Hii Dunia. We’re both doing a good job of pretending that we hope the other wins, whereas in fact our rivalry is deadly and potentially friendship-destroying.
Dan drew this for my facebook page. I think it’s basically the best thing ever.
Vote for me, or Dan, here.
I’m pleased to note that Assistant Blog has been shortlisted in the Best Personal Site and Blog category in the Brighton and Hove Web Awards. Hurray. That means you can vote for me to win if you wish. Please do.
Here are the shortlisted blogs; I should probably point that out Dan over at Hii Dunia deserves your vote as much as I do. But that doesn’t mean you should vote for anyone except me.
Good luck to the other bloggers!
As keen readers in recent months will have noticed, I’ve been slowly trying to incorporate some more drawings into my output here at Assistant Blog, and have been wanting for a while to start using my computer to help me present some of these sketches. Over the last few days I’ve done a few scrappy line drawings which I was keen to colour on screen rather than using pencils, so this evening I downloaded a free programme, LiveQuartz, and had a play with adding some bits of colour to a scan of the original. Here are the results, which aren’t band for a first attempt, I don’t think.
Not really used it yet, but I’m excited about the fact that I now have a copy of GarageBand on my mac – having played with Reason a fair bit over the last few years I’m kind of looking forward to the simplicity of a recording tool which I always hear good things about. So look for some GarageBand demos on this blog once I get round to a proper play.
In the meantime, there’s a good article about the tool in the Guardian today, from which the following paragraph is lifted.
“People looking for the next revolution in music are actually looking in the wrong place,” says Ward, who recently launched the Now Form A Band campaign, encouraging budding creators to tap into punk’s DIY spirit and use free or open source software such as Luna Free, Ardour or Kristal Audio Engine. “The revolution is the internet. It doesn’t matter if the music itself is not groundbreaking – the next revolution is how it’s actually recorded and distributed.”
And the quote below is from an interview with the divine Scout Niblett, who is a fan too.
What’s your favourite piece of technology?
“The program GarageBand. I use it to put ideas down and then write my songs. It’s really low-fi, even though it’s high tech. I don’t use any external mics, just the internal one on the computer – I just press record and sing at the computer, and that’s how I get my ideas down.”
I’ve been thinking about what I would pay if I went in for this – I think I’d settle on between four and five pounds, taking into account (a) that that’s already much more than the band would receive from a CD sale and (b) that there’s no physical product or packaging. What continues to impress me most about the whole deal is the quality of the diskbox, and I’m enthused that so many people are opting for that. Great stuff.
Like most people, I’m very well aware that Wikipedia is not the Oracle – it contains errors (like most encyclopedias) and is obviously open to abuse. Despite knowing this, I use it pretty much daily and – perhaps naively – believe pretty much everything I read on it.
The following error, which has been subsequently repeated elsewhere, could hardly be less trivial. Nevertheless, it’s instructive in demonstrating how far Wikipedia has gone in becoming the destination of choice for reporters. In future, perhaps they should be a little more careful. In practice, I suspect they won’t.
“Ronnie Hazlehurst did not write S Club 7′s Reach.
Why would you think he did?
It might be becauseBBC News, The Guardian, The Times, The Stage and Reuters all said he did, in their obituaries of the TV theme king.But why would they think he did?
Because Wikipedia told them so, and so when the – hurried, harried – journalists came to write their obits for him, they just took the information at face value.”
And the sting in the tail:
The great thing about this sorry saga is that, by Wikipedia’s rules, Ronnie Hazlehurst really *did* write ‘Reach’, since it can be cited from numerous sources.
I realise that everyone is talking about this already, so the adding of my tuppence really adds very little value to this here internet – nevertheless, I think it’s very interesting that Radiohead (perhaps typically) have decided to sidestep convention and release their brand new album, with very little fuss, on their own website, without any record company back up – and rather charmingly are not even dictating how much people have to pay to get it. You can have it for free, in other words, or you can work out how much you’d like to pay and pay just that. Great stuff.
Annoyingly, I don’t like Radiohead that much, so I can’t really join in the fun. But I hope the scheme is successful and that it sets some sort of precedent. It’s a very brave move for a band as big as Radiohead and it’s impossible not to respect them for it.
Ironically, thinking about it, my favourite thing about the band is ordinarily their wonderful artwork, so if I were to show an interest, it’d probably manifest itself in buying the diskbox – a beautiful, expensive package comprising heavyweight vinyl, CD and MP3 – lovingly rendered and about a thousand times more interesting than a bunch of MP3s. Still, fascinating stuff.
Here’s some more via BoingBoing.
Reluctant as I am to fall into the trap of endless social networking, or endorsing big brands, I have to admit that I’m now using, and enjoying using, Facebook a lot. It’s a cool site and good for catching up with what friends or online correspondents are up to. So if any of my few regular readers want to add me as a friend, please feel free to do so via the whatsit below, which I’ll stick in my sidebar in time.
Considering the frequency with which blogs and newspapers talk about MP3s and DRM, you would think another round-up of the issue would be an unnecessary read – but Bob Stanley’s short article in the Times this week, titled ‘The record industry goes out of its way to be unloved’, is worth a read, not least because, well, it’s lovely Bob Stanley. And he’s right. There’s a nice little love letter to vinyl tacked on at the end, too.
“Dylan … told Rolling Stone: “We all like records that are played on record players, but let’s face it, those days are gon-n-n-e.” On the contrary, vinyl is on the up. If the growth of the CD made music seem that much smaller, the download has pushed it off the map entirely. Without a physical product, music becomes like air – no wonder people are loath to pay for it. Pop consumers, teenagers, have swung back to the spiritual beauty of the 7in-single, the album. To walk to school with one under your arm is a badge of honour. Downloads, by comparison, are so uncool.
The industry may dismiss this as a fleeting trend, but one group is taking it very seriously indeed. Having decided that no digital format is stable enough for posterity, the Church of Scientology has been pressing the collected thoughts of L. Ron Hubbard on to futuristic, nondigital, unbreakable, good old-fashioned vinyl.”
I know everyone goes on about how addictive Facebook is – but I think they’re talking about the social networking aspects of it. They’re kind of right, I guess – but my facebook addiction is based upon the graffiti application, which I’ve just discovered. Wonderful. Here’s a selection of my first few efforts.
A lot of my friends are from places in Europe which have more reliable weather than we do here. Or at least more reliably warm or reliably cold, as opposed to hopelessly ill-disciplined and changeable, which is what we seemed to be saddled with her in the UK. One thing myself and a lot of my friends have done recently is bowed to the inevitable and signed up for a facebook account. Facebook has an agreeable little status update prompt which works rather like twitter (currently lying dormant on my sidebar, I know) and enables facebookers to post short, regular messages which keep all and sundry apprised of their activities.
For my English friends, who are used to – and enjoy – discussing the weather, this functions as a straightforward method of continuing a conversation which we will engage with until we die. For friends from abroad I get the feeling that this little status update widget enables them to finally express their bewilderment at this rubbish country’s climate and simultaneously finally slide with ease into the one conversational mode in which all Englishmen are happy. Finally on facebook we have complete synchronicity: we all declaim the weather, announcing that ‘Jonathan is seriously considering emigrating to a country with less rainfall’ or ‘Anne-sophie is tired of this miserable weather’ or ‘Dan is wondering why Global Warming is working against his interests right now’.
All of a sudden I am tranfixed with fear at the thought that a real summer might be lurking around the corner, smiling in the sun and ready to crush our peaceful, ordered conversations.
Last of today’s link clearouts, for now…
You might have already seen the new Google map feature which enables you to drill down in mind-boggling detail to street-level views, but if not it’s an absolute must. They’ve only done it for a few select US cities so far, but the one for San Francisco has had me bewitched all week. The amount of data and the quality of the images is just staggering. Unbeliavably, not only can you track your way round the city moving forwards and backwards along its many roads, you can also pan round 360 degrees. Amazing. Taking the end of Powell St, for example, which is where I stayed when I was there, you can obtain a full spin of high detail photos. Here are three from one position alone. Wow. There’s some info on how it’s done here, via Gromblog.
It occurs to me that I was in such a rush to leave for the US last week that I never got round to publicising the fact that the new episode of the Assistant Blog Digest podcast was released on the 27th April. Just in case you didn’t get it automatically (if you subscribed to the original then it should have just turned up automatically in your iTunes library), here’s the place you need to go to get it from iTunes. If that doesn’t work for you, try the XML feed (which is compatible with bloglines, iPodder etc) or, failing all else, just download it as a straightforward MP3 by right clicking and saving on the link below.
Assistant Blog Digest – Episode Two.
Any comments much appreciated – it’s a bit rougher round the edges than the first one, but still enjoyable I think
FYI, it seems to download way faster if you grab it through iTunes, dunno why. You can get the first episode in the same place, obviously, or here.
Can’t get close to finding something meaningful enough to make writing about what happened at Virginia Tech worthwhile, so I won’t go into it – but it was a tremendously upsetting and tragic event. I’ve just seen this, which took my breath for a moment – Kevin Cupp’s twitter page is nothing remarkable – ’til you get to “Trapped inside of Pamplin, shooter on campus, they won’t let us leave”.