Friday, 27 June 2008

Whoops, wrong software environment...

Here's the thing: I have my fingers trained to use CTRL+w to close tabs in Firefox, and CTRL+Backspace to delete whole words.

So I was just searching for paragraph reformatting tips for vim, scanned a page, wanted to close it, hit ':q'...

No, nice try, but wrong program.

And, just now, hit CTRL+w in an attempt to delete the last word. Thank deity Blogger asked me for permission before closing...

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Notes from the N95: v3

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

I am currently hoping that the next pervasive trend in phone design is the trackball. Blackberry have been doing it for a while now, and Samsung have started. Endlessly flipping a little ball takes a bit more effort than pressing a down button endlessly, but I do suspect that it would feel like less, particularly if it's done properly, with a big spin resulting in a big movement.

Kudos to Opera for including the time as part of the display.

Other things that put Opera one up on the native S60 Web are:

  • when a link is selected, any other link on the page that points to the same place is automatically highlighted. This is surprisingly useful.
  • more useful handling of big images. Read: you can room in, ran and actually read the text in comic strips.
  • fully cached pages for the "back" function. Very neat.
  • built-in search engines. I never thought these would be that useful, until I found myself using the IMDB and engines straight from the Opera start page. They really ARE that useful.
I never used to see the point in having an FM receiver in a phone: I have a radio in my car, and when walking or riding I don't want to obstruct my ears. But I can see the point now: for only the second time ever, I'm in a job which involves not constantly dealing with people face to face or on the phone, and although I can also put lots of music files on the phone, the radio makes a good alternative.

But I do wish that it didn't need to use the headphones as the aerial. This is slightly limiting. This may not be obviously apparent, but it can be limiting.

A phone that has a 5MP camera and GPS really should be able to geotag it's own photos, and not have to rely upon third-party applications.

Ditto for geotracking, although Nokia do have their own solution now in their appallingly badly named "Sports Tracker".

Who the fuck had the idea to build web pages for Nokia that make it stupidly hard to download files straight onto a mobile? Fire that twit!

While you're fixing that problem, start using barcodes to give download links. The N-series phones at least are having barcode readers built in now - if can manage it, why can't you? This is even weirder when you consider that you can use Nokia's own website to generate these codes!
(If you have no idea what I'm talking about: That's the square box to the left).

None of the ebook readers that I've been able to find can read html. This is quite annoying. One of them can do a perfect job of reformating line breaks, so html is the much better solution. Which is not currently available. Please?

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Hey, where the hell did that heart-warming moment come from?

I have a confession to make.

I'm sick.

I like politically incorrect jokes (that are funny - most of them actually aren't), I like comic strips in the tradition on Far Side, and heartwarming stories of people overcoming adversity by playing with the normal children make me want to vomit (I know, I made a great career choice getting into disability services, didn't I?). Oh yes, and: If you use the spelling disAbility or the phrase "differently abled" or even "taking the dis out of disability" in my presence, don't be surprised if I scream apoplectically and launch myself at your throat.

So this morning I'm slowly going through the archives of sick and twisted Internet comic strip Killer Spoons (contains fecal humour and abortion jokes) when I stumble across what may be the only actually good "disabled getting out there" example I've seen all year: Speed Wheeler.

That kid needs one of these.

P.S.: I wonder how much of the Paralympics will get televised this year?

Link to strip Speed Wheeler.
Link to ParaPros Racing (check out the gallery, then practice saying "Gnarly, dude!" until you stop feeling self-conscious about it.)

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Where's that sense of perfection you just never got anyway?

Over at The Nokia Guide, there is a list of 15 things (he's) wondered about the Nseries.

They are, all of them, (well okay, except maybe for one or two I wasn't aware of), things that I've wondered as well. And it got me thinking.

With one or two exceptions, most companies that can lay claim to any sort of leadership or dominance of any market - Nokia, Microsoft, Shimano... - demonstrate, time after time, that they can do absolutely fantastic work (yes, even Microsoft!) but, month after month, don't. The sense of perfection and constant innovation (there's that word that Microsoft do so love to butcher!) that the exceptions display - Apple, the Segway mob, Dyson... - is missing from the daily operations and run-of-the-mill products. And it's only when they're seriously challenged (Microsoft accelerating the development of Internet Explorer or Office on the Mac, or building hardware to compete with Logitech) or they have a moment of inspiration (Nokia N95 - how the hell did they put that much hardware in such a small case?) that they really do something good, and even then there are problems, such as the build quality of the N95 or the massive security flaws in IE. And some people just can't seem to have an original thought, although to give Microsoft their credit they don't always crib ideas from Apple, sometimes they crib ideas from NeXt Inc. or Opera instead.

Plus, when the companies that are ahead of the curve on excellence do something odd, there's usually a good explanation (why did the iPhone not have 3G? Because then the battery would only last for 6 hours, instead of 12. Why did they cripple it by insisting that applications run through Safari, incurring you data charges? Because they're douchebags who are in league with AT&T to get more money out of you). Whereas with most companies, the most you can do by way of explanation is roll your eyebrows. Why doesn't the Nseries have USB charging? Gee, I dunnow, maybe they forgot to put it in?

What's really said is that Nokia, who I thought was the only company who can consistently make competent and finished mobiles... isn't. Don't get me wrong, I still love my N95 and think it's so far ahead of my old Samsung that it may have cost four times as much, not twice as much, but even it isn't finished.

Incidentally, I would add to that list of 15 things to wonder about:
  • Why doesn't the N95 (and other GPS Nseries phones) do geotagging of photos natively?
  • Why did they remove geotracking from Maps2.0?
  • Why did they make directions a subscription service in Maps2.0? (Oh, that's right: Because they're douchebags who are trying to fleece you for everything you've got).
  • Why did they put an accelerometer in the N95 and then not use it for half a year?
  • Why haven't they taken the slightest look at text entry and investigated actual predictive text instead of basic text disambiguation?
Link to The Nokia Guide post "15 things I've wondered about the Nseries".

Technology: Messing with free choice every day in every way

A GPS device that can limit the speed of cars that are travelling too fast will soon be on trial in NSW.

I would just like to say: No, wrong!

I won't bother going into the numerous big-brother, personal privacy arguments. I won't bother going into how this is removing responsibility from individuals and therefore fostering a climate of sheep who can drive even less well than they can now. I won't follow Andrew Fraser's quoted comments that this is putting off the need for a meaningful increased police presence, which I heartily agree with. I won't even bother going into whether or not we should trust the government to make our decisions for us, or whether or not the government is, on this one (speed limits) even remotely right (hint: no).

I have far more practical concerns:
  • You're in an emergency and you need to get away from the raging bushfire/to hospital/away from the flood waters? Tough.
  • The road you're on is signposted at 100 but the GPS thinks you're on the parallel road which is signposted at 60? Tough. (You think that GPS is more accurate than that? Then you are very naive indeed. Rafe at tried to use GPS tracking on a Nokia to make map artworks, and his track claimed that he crossed several streets that he hadn't. All it takes is a bit of uncertainty.)
  • The road you're on is signposted at 100 but the database the GPS is operating off is out of date and thinks it's signposted at 80? Tough.
  • The battery in the GPS is dying and it gives spurious readings? Tough.
  • The battery in the GPS is dying and it starts monkeying with your fuel system? Tough.
  • America decides to go to war with someone else and fiddles with the satellites for a couple of days? Tough.
  • You need to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle? Tough.
  • You need to overtake a vehicle going at 5 under the limit and want to do it quickly? Tough (I have, myself, gained 30km/h on more than one occasion on the bike when overtaking large caravans).
  • You're driving in traffic, the GPS decides you're going too fast and starts to slow you down just as someone nips in behind you, they don't react quickly enough and rear-end you (don't try and tell me that's unlikely)? Try proving that to the insurance people!

Plus, how quickly does the GPS react? I have stood in one place, in a completely open area, and seen my N95 report a speed of 25km/h, altitude fluctuations of 100m and location fluctuations of at least as much. Granted this is a small, low-powered, inefficient device and a stand-alone GPS unit for a car is a considerably better proposition, but come on. I will trust this system when I have no other options, and not a second before.

Link to the ABC Online story

Mobile social networking clients make no sense

(Disclaimer before I start: They're not all this stupid, I know, but I don't have access to the better ones.)

I currently have, on my phone, a Nokia-supplied application called Lifeblog (dear god, when will this obsession with baby-talk end?) that I can use to send photos to Livejournal or several other forums that I haven't bothered investigating. I also have a third-party application called Shozu, which will allow me to send photos and other stuff to Blogger (what you're currently reading, although this post wasn't composed on the phone), Livejournal, Picasa, flikr and about a hundred other "social networking" sites.

And yet neither one of those will allow me to go into the application and start typing up a simple text post. Livejournal will let me send posts via SMS, but only in the US. It will let me send posts via email, but only if I upgrade to a paid account. Interestingly, it will also only accept photos via Lifeblog if I have a paid account, but will happily accept photos through Shozu for a free account. Weird.

Why can't I send text to a blog easily? At the moment, in Lifeblog I can select a photo (or text note, or SMS, or anything else), select "Post to web", and get a post template for LJ from which I can delete the attachment and to which I can add text. Bit of a kludge, no?

In Shozu I haven't even tried, but I do know that I can't just select one of the defined sites and go to "Create new content".

Short of a custom client for one of those sites, which I'm reluctant to investigate given the options I already have, I have to jump through hoops to send the most basic and efficient of electronic communications media, plain text.

Have people forgotten about Web "1.0" in their mad scramble to be seen as "getting" "Web 2.0"?

Link to Shozu, if you're that masochistic.
Explanation of "Web 2.0"
My LiveJournal account - currently has no limits set on who can view what.

We don't actually want to reduce drug dependency, do we?

This boggles the mind. Let's review the background:
  • Heroin is illegal, highly addictive, funds a lot of organised crime and can really fuck up your life.
  • Methadone is a legal drug replacement "weaning-off" therapy which is reasonably successful.
  • Heroin addicts are unlikely to be able to able to afford methadone.
  • Therefore, the government subsidises the treatment.

At this point, anybody who has any idea at all on how my mind works is wondering what the "but" is.

Here it is:

  • Pharmacies are charging a $60 dispensing fee, so addicts can't afford the treatment, so they end up back on heroin, on the streets, committing multiple acts of petty crime to fund it, because the government subsidises the drug but not the pharmacy's fees.

You can't tell me that we're really trying to cut down on illegal drug usage. I just won't believe you.

ABC News story here.

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