Thursday, 28 June 2007

Oh look! Tags!

Despite being a great believer in tags, I haven't actually used them yet on this blog. So I've started, and started going through updating old posts, sporadically and unevenly.

Cool toy... Must... Resist... Urge

I have mentioned before in this blog that I have rather high standards of a smarter-than-your-average-bear mobile phone/PDA thingamajigs. I also have high standard of standard mobiles, but I'm setting my sights higher than that.

I have also mentioned, in that post, that I would be fairly impressed with the Sony-Ericsson M600i if it only had WiFi and a camera, and the keyboard was usable (which is up for debate, ATM).

And then I discovered that the two lacking parts were being rectified. And I was happy.

Well, now the first prototypes of the P1 are being handed out to reviewers (how do you get a gig like that? Please?) and I have this to say:

Want one... Want one... Want one... Want one...

As a deal-making bonus, unlike the Microsoft-hegemonising Windows Mobile fucking platform which has a proprietary PC synchronisation solution that they keep changing with OS versions, the UIQ/Symbian P1 has SyncML! YES! I knew that the ghost of Psion wouldn't let me down!

I was also amused that GSMArena shared my thoughts on phone navigation:

"Somehow, the smartphone platform cannot really use the stylus efficiently as much as PocketPC does and it turns into more of a deterrent since you have to use both your hands to do things you could have easily done with a simple joystick or a D-pad if one was available."

Let me reiterate: Give me a phone that can be driven like a phone when used as a phone.

Now: Does Opera8 for Symbian run google docs smoothly?? Please???

Oh, and one last thing: Sell it in Australia, you bastards.

Build it, and they will come. After they work out what they need it for

I am rather a fan of Arthur C Clarke's observation that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" and the corollary (I just spent three minutes trying to remember how to pronounce and/or spell that word. It messed with my head) that until the technology is developed you may not know what's possible. This leads easily to the realisation that until you know about it, you don't know that you need it (fill in your own comments about mobile phones with cameras, hard drive PVRs, etc.). This is what separates the drivers of technological change from the people who are willing to put up with the status quo. Oh, and the ability to act upon the realisation they just had, of course. Watch New Inventors sometime.

My brother has a fantastic quote from Henry Ford in his email signature: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." I'm sure that Ford and Thomas Edison were of a like mind: "There's a better way. Find it."

All of which highlights the important point that those who argue that public funds should only go towards research that is directly, obviously of immediate benefit to the public (I knew someone like that. I had too much respect for him to argue too hard, and too little expectation that he would be prepared to change his mind) are blind to the fact that sometimes we don't know what research will benefit the public. The developers of Prozac, for example, have been quoted as saying that they weren't trying to cure depression, they were just mucking about with chemicals (I paraphrase, of course). The developers of Unix were doing much the same thing, as I understand it. Although there are those who would argue that this was not a good development...

In a similar vein, I have just spotted this report on Engadget: A robot that can swim through your bloodstream (Isaac Asimov's Fantastic Voyage, anyone?)

What really struck me, and what prompted the above musings, was this sentence: "
Right now the doctors don't know what the medical applications might be, though they speculate that a large number of the bots could be used to fight certain types of cancer".

I love it. Right now they have no idea what it will be used for, but it's pretty cool, huh? Never let an absence of practical ideas stop you playing around with cool toys. I expect the bot to be used to de-plaque arteries and install stents, for starters.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

In your face, Tom!

I don't, normally, advocate disparaging people or discriminating against them on the basis of a publicly held religious belief. I will make exceptions for the really kooky belief systems, but on the whole I am a lot more lenient in this regard than, say, Richard Dawkins or the authors of specifically skeptical blogs.

Which leads to a great deal of surprise by people when they discover that I am as militant as Dawkins himself when they try and justify a scientific attitude, legal position or moral belief using their religious beliefs. I have a very live-and-let-live-provided-you-shut-the-fuck-up-about-it attitude. So I will hope that John Travolta dies a long and painful lingering death if the reports of what I consider to be abusive neglect of his apparently autistic son are true, but I will quite happily remain friends with my church-going gay catholic friend, and restrict my abuse of his habits to the fact that he still smokes like a chimney despite his heart attack, steadily worsening diabetes and savagely painful chronic shoulder condition (hope the treatment today goes well, incidentally).

But one of the exceptions I will make is for scientology. There is nothing on earth that will convince me to let scientologists live and let live (especially considering their inability to do the same) in the light of a.) how fucking ridiculous their belief system actually is, b.) their hatred towards the mental health professions and c.) the numerous, questionable but repeated reports of L Ron Hubbard having stated "If you really want to make money, start a religion", when combined with the fact that every time you want to do something in Scientology, you have to pay for it.

So Germany, which refuses scientology religion status and considers it a money-making brainwashing charade of a cult, makes me very happy. And Germany threatening to ban filming of a film because it stars chief nutjob Tom Cruise makes me extremely fucking happy.

There no such thing as "too many txt messages"

I am in awe. I have, right at the beginning of this blog, detailed my fairly long and strongly held opinions about mobile phone features, including: If it's going to be more powerful than a standard call/txt communication device, it needs a QWERTY keyboard.

Which is amusing, in retrospect, considering that when I was first looking at the input methods chosen by PDAs (predominantly an artificial alphabet - graffiti - which was written one character at a time and all in the same spot, ruining both the flow and the natural movements of handwriting), I wondered why they didn't just try and do a predictive-text system: minimise the number of buttons and button presses, benefit from other people's research... Then I discovered the pickboard available through the Opie (Open Palmtop Integrated Environment) project, which was essentially predictive text using the three-letter groupings spaced out horizontally, which is ergonomically horrible but does save on screen real-estate. And I was impressed, and found it good, but not as good as two-thumb typing on a tiny real keyboard.

And now here I am demanding a two-thumb QWERTY system. Largely, I think, because of the mistakes I forget to check for in the predictive outcome...

And now I am in awe of the awesome power of T9. I can't believe it. An entire 384 pages of novel, at 160 characters per time (that's one SMS, in case you were wondering), on the bus, using T9 on his mobile. I take my hat off, genuflect and repeat "We're not worthy, we're not worthy".

But there are, of course, questions unanswered. Namely: What phone, how did he collate the output, how long did it take him, did he get RSI, is his thumb a strange shape now...

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Ha ha ha...

I have just noticed, while compiling my previous post, that the Google/Blogger spellchecker doesn't recognise "RSS". That seems to me to be a rather amusing oversight...

No shit, sherlock

I would like to think that I care a little bit more about being a good motorist than do most people on the road. The alternative doesn't bear thinking about. I know too much about the potential consequences of an accident to ever want to be involved in one.

I also, in a situation many people would consider ironic, enjoy cycling and motorcycling. Which just means that whenever I throw a leg over a bike, I'm more than a little bit paranoid.

I also happen to know, via work, a little bit more about road safety statistics than most people, and I have this to say: The anti-speeding campaign is poorly designed, never going to be effective, and a red herring.

But moving on.

These two gems, from the Courier Mail RSS feeds, and from the ABC RSS feeds:

Exhibit A (Curious Snail):

"A YOUNG motorcyclist has died after a collision with a four-wheel-drive north of Brisbane.

The man, believed to be in his late teens or early 20s, died after his trail bike collided with the 4WD at the intersection of Old Gympie and Twin View Roads at Elimbah, near Caboolture, about 2.10pm (AEST) today, police said."

Exhibit B (ABC):

"A 26-year-old Queensland man has died after he crashed his motorcycle at Toowoomba in the state's south-east.

Police say it appears the man was thrown from his bike when he ran into a barrier at Mount Lofty Park about 2:30 am AEST.

He died at the scene. Investigations are continuing."

Speaking as a motorcyclist, I have one immediate response to each:

Exhibit A: A 4WD? really? How surprising! I hope the driver gets the book thrown at them.

Exhibit B: Idiot.

It seems clear to me that Exhibit B demonstrates inappropriate speed, pure and simple. There may have been treacherous road conditions, but unless there was an unidentified other vehicle involved that rider was going too fast. And every motorcyclist alive has a passionate hatred of 4wheel drives and the inconsiderate, incompetent pricks who drive them. Forget Volvos: If you want the most easily stereotyped unsafe population of drivers: 4WDs win hands down. I've had close shaves myself and, as I said, I'm paranoid.

But this is the bit that really takes the cake for quality journalism, the final sentence of the Curious Snail report:

"The driver of the 4WD was uninjured."

No shit, Sherlock. I'd like to know what sort of collision with a motorcycle would injure the driver of a suburban tank. Unless we're talking about a Suzuki Sierra, nothing short of a Honda Goldwing or one of those Harley Road Kings that have six-stacker CD player, climate controlled air-conditioning and take up more space than my Camry could possibly endanger the driver of a 4WD unless the rider was thrown up, came through the windscreen and headbutted them.

Now there's an entertaining thought...

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