Saturday, 14 June 2008

Smile, but don't crash, now!

Anybody who pays more attention to the road than the bit immediately in front of them will have noticed the following curious fact about speed cameras:

Even people who are travelling on or under the limit will see one and immediately, and quite sharply, slow down.

Anybody who knows more about driving than being able to use the steering wheel for an arm rest will have realised that this is dangerous behaviour: Suddenly changing speed or direction can result in dangerous situations because you are forcing other people to compensate and other people can not be assumed to be adequate to this task. They may be changing tapes, swearing at the kids in the back seat, or just plain zoned out. Then they run up your arse, and spoil your day.

Now, finally, this:

'Cameras may cause crashes' (Courier Mail)

Well, no shit, Sherlock. Someone in a position of presumed authority has finally said this in public.

In fact, the final line in that article, from National Motorists Association Queensland spokesman MIchael Bates, is brilliant:

"We believe speed limits should be realistic in the first place . . . and enforced by traffic police," he said.

Oh, surely not. Reasonable? Never! Enforced by actual representatives of the law? Impossible! Next he'll be saying that people should be taught how to merge properly so they don't cause accidents!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Notes from the N95: v2

Another collection of random notes from the new smartphone, composed on the phone:

Things that savage the battery:

  • Games (it does, after all, have a separate graphics chip)
  • GPS
  • Playing music or audiobooks using the stereo speakers rather than headphones (and I really, really shouldn't have been taken by surprise by THAT one!)

Single biggest shortcoming of the N95: the low capacity of the battery.

Can't the T9 dictionary be used to fuel a spellchecker for text editors and note-takers?

Huh! There are things that Nokia don't do best! My first real feature phone, Sony-Ericsson's very neat T630, had a very neat trick with T9: after selecting a word you could not only modify it, but cycling T9 between lower-case, upper-then-lower and all caps would cycle the word between those formats. Which was very, very handy. The Samsung that replaced it did not. Neither does this S60 Nokia, which disappoints me somewhat.

The symbol entry menu contains an entry for a space character. I'm still scratching my head over that one. I haven't met the circumstances under which I would need to use that menu item instead of the zero key. Entering numbers is the only use-case scenario that trots to mind, but it would almost be quicker to switch to alphabet mode, enter space, then switch back to number mode.

Here's a thought: (a stupid one, but nonetheless a thought) the N95 has an accelerometer which has so far been used for games, screen auto-rotation and an inclinometer for 4WDs. Well, how about a computer mouse for bluetooth equipped laptops? And for presentations when you want to stand up and walk around and still have control? They're building motion-sensing mice for exactly that purpose (and my god Logitech makes a nice one), so why not take advantage of your mobile? If you were sitting down you would of course want to have some sort of scratch protection for the phone.

On the subject of the accelerometer: I'm afraid I have to eat humble pie and admit that I was wrong. When the iPhone was released and we were treated to endless videos of automatic screen rotation for viewing photos, I immediately thought of at least one use case where that wouldn't work, and dismissed it. I was right about the need to be able to turn it off, but I was wrong about dismissing it. Thanks to French hacker Samir, I can now do the same thing myself, and apart from the wow factor, it is highly neat and cool. But I do only turn it on when I know I'm going to be wanting it.

If the phone decides that it's timed out and locks the keys, and you then press a key, it will come up with a message telling you that the keys are locked, but that message will not light up the screen, and this is really annoying because without a good direct light source, I can't read the fucking thing. This is probably a battery-saving feature, however if the slide is open, I probably want to continue using it. At least light up the notice!

On that point: one massively useful feature of my last two phones was the ability to brighten the stand-by or cover display by pressing or pressing and holding a key. Please, Nokia, put this in the next firmware!

Weirdness in caller ID: I have my girlfriend entered in my phonebook twice: once with the prefix Aa, which means that she's the first option presented, which saves time (I actually cribbed this off her - not a bad idea for a technophobe!) and once as ICE, which stands for In Case of Emergency, and allows paramedics, if you're unconscious or otherwise uncommunicative, to pick up your phone and say "I have no idea how to work this!" sorry, pick up your phone and ring the most appropriate person. My last phone always identified incoming calls or texts as ICE, I have on idea why. The N95 just gives up and displays the number. This is not helpful.

Oh no, what have you done

One of the entertaining things about using Google products is that you never know when they’re going to upgrade something without notice and leave you pleasantly surprised for the day.

This just happened to me when, lounging around and toying with the N95, I logged onto Google Reader and was startled to find myself staring at a new interface. And lo, it was shiny and neat and very... iPhone-looking. In fact, one of the posts in my reading list detailed that it was an S60 specific interface that was, essentially, an adapted version of the iPhone specific interface. So there you are, then.

My problem is that it doesn't actually seem to be an improvement. Shiny and strokeable, yes. Better, no.

You see, S60 is not (yet) touch-screen and in the absence of touch-screen a more compact list where the cursor jumps from link to link is actually more useful.

I have a nasty suspicion that Google have done something because it looks good, not because it works. This does not bode well.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

"Existence is suffering, mon"

Buddhist chaplain admits dealing pot (ABC news).

Wouldn't pot help with the whole letting go and reaching nirvana thing? Couldn't he try and go for religious dispensation for this?

Save souls == scar emotionally for life

"Repeatedly threatening children with brutal torture in the form of eternal damnation is psychological child abuse, and has extremely negative, long-term effects on their mental health. It's bullying, it's disgusting, and we need to put a stop to it." Stop the Nightmares: petition to stop religious bullying in the UK.

What would it take to get this for Australia? Please?

It's very simple, really: There are laws governing public order and child abuse, and religious groups and individuals are frequently allowed to bypass or side-step these laws purely because they claim special status for being religious. The logic in this crumbles like a communion wafer when the government involved has a consitutional separation of church and state, and allows multiple religions, each of which conflict with the others, to do the same thing.

Behave decently, and demonstrate your evidence, or shut up. A heritage and a repeatedly translated and edited book, or even one which can still be read by millions of believers in its original language, do not exempt you from abuse laws and do not allow you to tell little kids that they'll experience torments for all eternity if they don't parrot the party line.

I thought journalists were supposed to PROVIDE information

For all those out there who write reviews, or news items, or commentary:

If you don't provide a clear and easily accessible and obvious link to source information, or the product you're reviewing, or the organisations you're quoting, you fail.

You may even deserve a big L for loser. Engadget falls into this category: It took me ages to realise that you had to click on the image for external links, and that all links which looked like fucking links were internal. ABC News Online, despite having better journalism than the Courier Mail and other entities, is woefully inferior in understanding the Internet. And it seems that fail as well. While looking at one recent story, I had to go to another external review of the product in order to get a link to the actual product which, being an online office suite, really should have been linked from the original fucking story.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Dear deity, but this is pathetic.

Apparently there is an annual "Quality of living global index" which ranks cities on how good they are to live in. Not drawn up by the UN, or the World Bank, or anyone you might think would have an interest in this, no: Drawn up by an international investment and consultancy firm.

It seems that Brisbane has slipped a bit in the latest rankings (Courier Mail). Big whoop.

However, what gets me about this story is the response from people to this. I'm not surprised that people are bitching instead of a.) moving to somewhere higher in the rankings, b.) laughing derisively at the idea that you can rank cities like this and expect everybody to agree with you or c.) thinking "Hmm... What do we need to improve?"

What gets me is just how personally people are taking this, and how petty they are about it. Commerce Queensland president got us off to a roaring start with this piece of pointless and "So what?" commentary:

"I am extremely offended," she said.

Your point being?

Employment support enterpreneur Sarina Russo did no better:

"I fail to understand why we have dropped." Well that, right there, may help to explain it, don't you think?

The chief executive of Brisbane Marketing was even more useless, challenging the assessors to "clean their glasses and come again."

Oooh, getting personal! That'll show them! That'll convince them to raise our rating!

And, incidentally, when the article says that Brisbane is the "Worst rated capital in the whole of Australia," I don't see ratings for Darin, Canberra or Hobart. Do you? I think they meant "Worst rated of the Australian capitals assessed." Shoddy workmanship, Melanie Christiansen, shoddy workmanship.

It is not wise to criticise your boss

Which makes it really hard for me, right now, while proof-reading our next newsletter and finding that it's my boss' entry which needs the most editing.

Oh, yes, please!

Now this is a fantastic idea. I myself have in the past attached dead CDs to the front of a hay bail and shot arrows at them (they go all to pieces so spectacularly!).

Passive-Aggressive anger release machine (Gizmodo Australia).

Now this is just disgusting

This (Cairns Post) is sweet on one level, and completely gross and disgusting on another.

Man, bitten on penis by a brown snake (that's a bad thing to happen) thought he was going to die so he used a cold can of rum as an ice pack to reduce the pain while he rang his mother to say goodbye.

I'll repeat that: He rang his mother while holding a cold can of rum against his cock.

Full marks for initiative, but ewwwwww.

Oh, and: In future, look where you're about to squat. Just a suggestion.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

You know you need a break when....

I Can Has Cheezburger makes you suddenly have to grab your nose and squeeze in a desprate attempt to avoid laughing hysterically.

A camera disguised as... a camera

This is proper retro, not steampunk made-up retro, and is possibly even cooler through being subtle.

A digital camera replica of a hand-cranked Rolleiflex. I'm a little disappointed by the 'mere' 5MP sensor, but the square images it produces are neat, if not entirely pointful.

Congratulations, we're doing better than the UK. Edit: More added

About bloody time too:

Tougher complementary medicine rules would 'protect consumers'. (ABC News Online)

What a beautifully uninformed and misleading statement that article contains: "New research indicates that some top-selling alternative drugs that claim to treat arthritis and help weight loss are ineffective."

Yes, they are. Repeat after me: Complementary medicines aren't effective, that's why they're complementary and not mainstream. The best that can be said is that, in cases like St John's Wort, they're not ineffective if you only have mild problems, and the worst that can be said is that, in cases like St John's Wort, they're hideously dangerous if actually used to "complement" prescription medications.

Later in the day, the ABC added this:

New Controls Considered for Complementary Medicines.

Which is actually a reasonable story. But I still have major reservations about this comment from a spokesman for Choice magazine:

"There is no reason why complementary medicines should not be treated with the same, if not similar, scrutiny as other pharmaceuticals and something else we would like to see is that those medicines who do not choose this opting system with a green tick, have some sort of label on their packaging which says this medicine has not been evaluated by health authorities for efficacy," he said.

Actually, there is every reason why they should, including the fact that any substance which claims to be bioactive needs to be evaluated for safety, and consumer protection laws. But what is this about a green tick? "Not evaluted ... for efficacy"? How many are evaluated for efficacy? And do health authorities evaluate for efficacy or just safety? (I'm actual unsure about that one, please enlighten me). I'm more concerned about evaluation for safety first, and efficacy second and, you know, if Pfizer decide that they can make money from refining echinacea extract they're certain to be able to get some sort of patent. They've got clever lawyers.

"Damn, I hadn't thought of that, said God, and disappeared in a puff of logic"

I rather like this. If any theists wish to argue it, their challenge is to define "faith"

God is an atheist (Too Much Coffee Man).

Monday, 9 June 2008

For added effect, drink blood

Hey, here's something new: I desperately, desperately want a set of these, and they're not made out of brass and wood!

Seven Deadly Sins wine glasses. How is Lust supposed to work, exactly? Like one of those water bottles you get for rat cages?

Sort it by smell.

Why is hearing the only sense that deserves mention when acting on impulse or without plan? "Play it by ear." Don't carpenters or safe-crackers ever say "Fiddle it by fingertip"? Don't cooks ever say "Cook it by tongue"?

Apart from the potential sexual confusion, of course.

Notes from the N95

A collection of random notes from the new smartphone, composed on the phone:

Entering the key combination 3-8-7 in predictive text gives me 'ftp' first, not an actual word like 'fur'. This may be because I added ftp to the dictionary, and it went to the front of the cue. Which leads me to question: does T9 learn from experience and re-sort priorities based upon usage frequencies? Because that would be, like, really smart and handy (update: yes, it seems that it does. After typing 'red' several times in a row further down in this post, 'red' became prefered over 'see'. Well done, Nokia, well done).

T9 really goodness: when cycling through options, you get the option of going backwards. I have not previously seen this, and it is GOOD.

No micro-USB charging. Most USB devices are powered or charged though the USB cable. The N95 is not. This is currently only eyebrow-raising, but could quickly become a nuisance. That facility allows the USB cable to become a smaller, more convenient and much more portable charging cable that I can take to work in case I need it.

The red key is inconsistent! Most phones have a red key which is used to cancel things or close applications or hang up calls. Useful little bugger. On Symbian with S60, however, they decided that because Symbian is multi-tasking they would use that key to send applications into the background instead of closing them, which is a really quick and neat way to get back to the home screen for a text message that just came in, or open a different application, or check the time or what have you. But people didn't realise this, and thought that they were closing the application, and would end up with too many open on an old device without enough working memory (RAM: I find the psychology term more useful), and their phone would start running at a crawl and they would get grumpy. So the red key became the close key. Now most devices have PLENTY of working memory on hand, and the red key is becoming a send-to-background key again. Which I prefer, except: it's not consistent. One or the other I could get used to but both mixed up together is really annoying. I keep hitting the red key, then not finding that application listed in the task manager when I want to get back to it. Which makes ME grumpy. Stick to one option and, if necessary, make it globally configurable.

Have you ever owned a vehicle equipped with a fuel gauge which would hover around full for a hundred kilometres or so, meander downwards to half and them suddenly plummet vertiginously to empty? The battery indicator on my N95 is a bit like that. Very annoying.

There must be a way to put a lot of control buttons in close proximity to each other and make it easy to hit one rapidly without danger of getting the wrong one and ending up killing the application or, at the very least, having to exit out of another menu. I'm just saying. Frighteningly, the fractionally larger screen on the N95 8GB results in an even smaller set of control buttons. I would hate to have to use the touch-sensitive "hidden" music control buttons embedded in the N81 keypad.

It has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on it. Which means that I can use my set that actually clicks over my ears and stays on. Oh, thankyou thankyou thankyou thankyou!

Nokia provide a very neat little cable that sits between the phone and the earphones, with the standard play/pause/skip buttons and volume buttons on it. Very handy. BUT, and this is both baffling and infuriating, the fucking thing only works with the single built-in music player. Third-party software? No. Not so surprising, you may think. BUT the little bugger doesn't even work with Nokia's own audiobook player! Aargh!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Like making a moto purse out of a sow's tractor.

Now, this is just plain wrong. If you're going to make a female robot out of a sports-bike, not only is a Buell with a Harley Davidson tractor engine in it an entirely inappropriate choice, but it means that you passed up the Ducati 1098R and the MV Agusta F4 as options!

Buell Firbolt transforms into Transformer.

How does a skeleton drink?

There so desperately needs to be a movie made in here:

Skeleton bar designed by H. R. Giger.

"Your opinion" means "that I agree with"

In the spirit of "Art is anything you can get away with", it is worth remembering that a University assignment is anything you can bullshit your way through (Diesel Sweeties).

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