April 30, 2006

links for 2006-04-30

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April 29, 2006

The BBC Open Catalogue

It's interesting to see that the BBC have launched one of the first pieces of their Open Archive project this week.

The BBC Programme Catalogue doesn't have any actual video footage, but does provide a huge amount of meta-information about the programmes in their archive, so you can do things like find out what was on TV on the day I was born, or all the programmes that Floella Benjamin has been in.

All very interesting, and from a web developer point-of-view, nicely done - Atom and FOAF feeds all over the place; nice little sparkline-like graphs showing how the appearances map over time; and clean, easily-guessable URLs.

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April 27, 2006

Magic As The Next User Interface Metaphor?

Since the mid-80s we've all become accustomed to the desktop metaphor as the main concept to describe how our computer screens look - we can place things in different places around our desktop, pile documents (or windows) on top of each other, and drag and drop things to move them from place to place.

This analogy is becoming increasingly stretched, as we need more powerful ways to visualize and manipulate data, and particularly as computing power bleeds out of the PC and into the world around us. With ubiquitous computing making our "intelligent devices" more specialised, the requirement to have their interface conform to a general-purpose workspace such as the desktop becomes less and less desirable.

Mike Kuniavsky has posted a very interesting article in which he experiments with off-the-shelf hardware and software to create a "magic wand" to control his Mac.

Combining an accelerometer-based mouse (so it doesn't need to be held on a surface to work) with mouse gesture software (the Firefox All-in-one gestures extension is where I'm most famililar with mouse gestures - it's a must for anyone using Firefox IMO) lets him control his computer by sweeping his arm around in the air whilst holding the mouse.

Now the object most similar (in common experience) to a mouse used like this would be the magic wand deployed by all good witches and wizards. Think how cool it will be if you could make your lights brighter by pointing your "wand" at them moving your wrist in a clockwise circular motion; or turning off the TV with a simple cross-like motion.

Combine the mouse functionality with your mobile phone, and suddenly everyone will be wandering round carrying a wand... Harry Potter eat your heart out! Of course, the death of the age of muggles won't be complete until we've worked out how to summon your wand from the other side of the room with a simple incantation...

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April 26, 2006

links for 2006-04-26

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April 22, 2006

If It Isn't Blogging, Then What Is It?

Ellee Seymour and Geoff Jones have persuaded local newspaper the Cambridge Evening News to run a column about blogging and business.

However, as Ellee explains, they aren't sure whether or not to use the word "blog" in the title.

I can understand why... it doesn't sound particularly good, but I think we're stuck with it now and if the column is to draw in people who aren't already into blogging then I think it's important to use the same term as everyone else. Maybe the extended version - "weblog" - would be close enough and a bit more business-like?

Regardless of the term they choose, I hope they set-up some sort of blog to go with the column. It would help show the value of blogs if there's a place for the readers to find the links to the original articles mentioned in the column and, more importantly, somewhere for them to discuss and comment upon the column.

UPDATE: Oops, in my rush to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, I forgot to include the proper links to Ellee, Geoff and the CEN. Added them now.

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April 14, 2006

DataCocoon Is Released!

The big moment has arrived! Today sees the launch of DataCocoon!

The website revamp is also live, so if you head over to www.mcqn.com you'll see it in all its splendour. Whilst you're there you can download the full version of DataCocoon, which is free to use for thirty days so that you can decide whether it suits you as a way to keep your data safe.

Then it's an easy process to buy a licence key to unlock the program to work forever - I know, I tried it out last night. If you're one of the first few people to buy it, you'll even get a phonecall from a nice lady at www.plimus.com as they're taking care of keeping all your credit card details safe and sending you a licence key and they need to ensure that there's nothing dodgy with my new vendor account. Good to see that they're careful not to let people use stolen credit-cards and the like, though do let me know if you have any problems with the purchase process.

Now the real fun starts, as I get thrown headlong into the sales and marketing side of things. But first I need to finish off the speech I'll be giving tomorrow afternoon somewhere just outside of Bolton or I won't be deserving of the title "best man"...

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April 12, 2006

Masterful Mashups

Ben Hammersley recently introduced me to the delights of the Kleptones, purveyors of exceedingly fine mashups.

They've just released a new album, 24 Hours, which is available on their downloads page along with a host of other superb mashups. I haven't been too taken with Yoshimi Battles the Hip Hop Robots, but From Detroit to J.A. and A Night at the Hip-Hopera (lots of Queen goodness) have been getting repeated listening on iTunes of late (and hence why The Kleptones are number two on my last.fm chart at the minute).

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April 11, 2006

links for 2006-04-11

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April 10, 2006

What Am I Up To?

In a recent comment over here, Ellee Seymour asked:

"Hi, I am interested to know what you are working on at the moment. What hi-tech innovation is left?"

I figured this was a good enough prompt for me to get round to updating everyone about why things have been little more than link dumps of late...

What am I working on at the moment?

Far too much! As always seems to be the case, things haven't quite dove-tailed as I'd have liked. I recently accepted some contract work (doing, and managing, some testing) to ease cashflow whilst I'm ramping up the sales and marketing of DataCocoon. However, I hadn't quite finished the revamp of the MCQN Ltd. website when I started the contract, so my evenings are being spent sorting that out. Almost sorted now, so the launch of DataCocoon isn't too far away!

The weekends would've been a good time to finish off the website too, were it not for a spate of weddings. Leila and Jon's wedding was the weekend before last; last weekend we were down in Kent for one of Rebecca's friends' wedding; and this week I need to finish off my speech ready for being best man at Craig's wedding on Saturday.

What hi-tech innovation is left?

There's still plenty of hi-tech innovation left to be had - there are far too many things I'd like to play around with...

Mobile computing
We're still a long way from getting people to use their mobile phones for much more than texting and phoning people. I don't think we will, or that we should, get mobile phones to replace PCs - a keyboard and a big screen are too useful - but they should be more closely integrated. It should be trivial to share data between the two, and have applications that assume you have both and play to each's strengths.
Web 2.0
This seems to be the latest buzzword, but hidden behind the hype there are some good trends in making websites more responsive and user-friendly. Another advantage is that the user doesn't have to worry about the maintenance and administration overhead to keep Web applications (things like Hotmail for an old example, or more recently Writely - a web-based word processor) running properly, but that is at the cost of your data being held by some random company.

As more and more of our data and computer usage moves online, I think we'll need improved abilities to manage our identity in the online world. At present there are two main modes of privacy on the Internet - things that everyone can see, or things that only the individual who owns them can see. It's hard to selectively open things up to other groups of people, such as my family, or my friends. Some form of global identity will not only give us less usernames and passwords to remember for all the services we use, but will also enable easier authentication of our friends and colleagues to allow us to develop semi-private spaces online.

Ubiquitous Computing
This is a catch-all term to cover all sorts of non-computer devices gaining networked computer-like abilities. So it includes things like smart light switches that can turn all the lights in the house off when you go to bed; heating systems that you can text when you leave work so your house is warm when you get home; through to things like this WiFi-enabled rabbit which can light up when your share price falls, or wiggle its ears when your girlfriend moves the ears on hers. All sorts of things that users won't necessarily realise have computers embedded in them, but will buy because they solve a problem.
And my direction?
In the short-term, I'll be playing with the Web2.0 stuff. I've been dabbling in it with a todo-list application that I'm developing for personal use at present, but will be looking to let others play around with it once it's a bit more polished.

And in the longer term I want to experiment with the ubiquitous computing stuff (anyone want to buy me a bunny?) but who know what I'll end up doing?

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April 04, 2006

The Simpsons...

These days I'd usually just link to this with del.icio.us, but I quite fancied trying out the embeddable video player from YouTube...

The trailer for The Simpson's movie is out!

If you can see a picture of Homer above, then clicking on the play button in the middle of the image should start the movie playing. If you can't see Homer then you might have more luck on the YouTube page itself.

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