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Archive for July, 2005

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July 26th, 2005

iPod and ZX Spectrum – together at last!

iPod and ZX Spectrum – together at last!

Tired of listening to miserable Americana on your way into work? Yearn for the good old days of Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy (or my personal favourite, the otherwise long-forgotten Luna Crabs)? Tire and yearn no more. Last Saturday’s low-fi BBC Backstage techfest included a little tutorial on how to hack your iPod, install a version of Linux and run a ZX Spectrum emulator. The brainchild of Matt Westcott, the emulator is one of a growing number of applications for the iPod Linux kernel, otherwise known as Podzilla. Go forth and emulate!

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July 26th, 2005

Whoopee-doo! Another MP3 player….

Whoopee-doo! Another MP3 player….

OK – yes, I’m sick of the media soiling itself with excitement every time somebody mentions iPods, MP3s or absolutely anything whatsoever to do with digital music, like it’s some amazingly innovative new concept that hasn’t been around for a decade already. That said, however, I have to admit to being ever so slightly impressed with the mobiBLU DAH-1500 MP3 player, which measures up at 2.4cm cubed, weighs just 18 grams and comes with up to 1Gb of memory. It looks almost like a little baby Borg Cube…

While we’re on the subject – whatever happened to Ogg Vorbis? Wasn’t that supposed to be the new MP3?

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July 22nd, 2005

We like it fast and cheap…

We like it fast and cheap…

A quick update on the 24Mb broadband service I mentioned in an earlier post: The Register is reporting that the service will be priced at below thirty pounds* when it becomes available. Sign me up for some of that. Although I’m probably going to need a cluster of linux servers and a data warehouse under the stairs in order to cope with all the stuff I’m going to download with that amount of bandwidth at my disposal.

*Blogger seems to have a problem with the pounds sterling symbol. What’s that thing called anyway?

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July 20th, 2005

OS/Who?

OS/Who?

Back in the mid-nineties, when I was a bright eyed young tech writer charting the rise of the desktop PC (which was still quite the novelty for most people) IBM was spending a lot of marketing dollars on pushing its desktop operating system, OS/2 Warp, as a consumer product. I wasn’t convinced. Sure, OS/2 might be super stable and have all sorts of clever features that corporate IT types go wild for, but it just wasn’t friendly enough for home users. I wrote an article which said as much, and received much flack from OS/2 fanatics because of it.

But as usual I was right, OS/2 never made it into the consumer market and struggled to compete with Windows in the business space too. IBM has now finally decided to drop the product altogether, and supporters have begun a campaign to persuade the company to open up the source code. I think it’s unlikely, since I’m sure the idea had already occurred to IBM and if they were going to do it, they would have done it by now.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they have a change of heart, and here’s why: IBM doesn’t really understand consumers and could never successfully turn OS/2 into a decent consumer operating system, but the open source community certainly could. In the open source space, the operating system which has the most mindshare is of course Linux, and a lot of effort is being devoted to turn what is essentially a server platform into a consumer friendly desktop OS. But no matter how much the penguin fanciers wish it, this just isn’t going to happen any time soon – Linux is still too difficult for consumers.

Imagine what could be achieved if all of those extremely talented and dedicated open source developers were given a ready made desktop operating system to get their teeth into. I think OS/2 would be a much better starting point for a serious open source rival to Windows on the desktop than Linux could ever be. Here’s hoping.

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July 12th, 2005

Public urged to store emergency contacts in phones

Public urged to store emergency contacts in phones

Mobile phone owners are being urged to list somebody to be contacted in case of emergency in their phone. The idea is that the person listed under ‘ICE’ (in case of emergency) will be able to identify the phone’s owner if there’s an accident and provide medical crews with more information. The proposal comes from Bob Brotchie, an East Anglian Ambulance Service paramedic. The idea was first launched in May, but is now spreading as an email meme.

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July 11th, 2005

Spammers exploit London bombs

Spammers exploit London bombs

Four days after the bomb blasts in London, there is a new trojan exploiting them. An email resembling a CNN newsletter tries to trick users into opening an attachment by pretending to be amateur video footage of the attacks, antivirus firms warn. Opening the attachment installs a program that enables the computer to be remotely controlled to send spam. The email has the subject ‘TERROR HITS LONDON’ and an attachment that looks like it’s named ‘London Terror Moovie.avi’. The attachment filename has a long string of spaces to force its real file type – .exe – off screen.

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July 6th, 2005

The Future: Virtual Domestic Disturbances

The Future: Virtual Domestic Disturbances

Facade is a free video game in which players find themselves caught in the middle of a domestic argument and must find a way to reconcile the couple. Seriously.

Actually, it’s more of a technology demo which experiments with a new, more lifelike method for players to hold conversations with computer controlled characters and in that respect it’s quite interesting. Although I sincerely hope they come up with some more entertaining uses for the technology, I can’t see the kids rushing out to buy a copy of Sim-Marital Strife.

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July 6th, 2005

More voters turn to internet for advice

More voters turn to internet for advice

When I was at school there was a kid two years older than me called Eric who said he was going to start a political party. His idea was that his constituents would be able to phone up and tell him how to vote on each issue in the House, and he’d listen to those who got in touch and go with the balance of opinion. The idea never took off – apart from anything else, Eric couldn’t spend all day on the phone. He had homework to do.

Today it would be easy to run a party according to Eric’s vision, using the internet to consult constituents. Powerful lobby groups could flood the discussion forums but at least the discussion would be out in the open, instead of behind closed doors. Yet the parliamentary machine still sees the internet as a way to convert people to the party’s line, rather than a way to solicit feedback.

The Hansard Society has this week reported that 15% of the population went online during the 2005 election season to get more information about the election. While a BBC story suggests The Hansard Society considers this figure to be low, in an election with about 60% turnout, it could represent as many as a quarter of those who later expressed a vote.

Of those surveyed, 19% said the internet had helped them to make up their mind, compared to just 6% in 2001. Participation in discussion forums, opinion polls, volunteering and donations has doubled since the 2001 election, but remains low.

The Hansard Society says that parties used the internet too much as a one-way conversation.

Our political parties are missing an opportunity to involve more people in decision making. It’s in their interests too: popular policies win votes and party subscriptions fund campaigns. And, let’s not forget, they’re supposed to be there to represent us in any case.

It could be five years until the next election, by which time a whole new generation of voters will have grown up with the internet. There is plenty of time for parties to seize the initiative and start using the internet as a valuable consultative tool, not just an advertising medium. They would do Eric’s youthful optimism proud.

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July 5th, 2005

Making Riot Control Fun

Making Riot Control Fun

Given the current news of riots at the G8 summit, I thought this link might be of interest: Police baton with LED score-counter. I really hope it plays a cute little electronic jingle whenever you get a new high-score.

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July 4th, 2005

Like a big piece of pi, that's amore

Like a big piece of pi, that's amore

BBC News: Japanese breaks pi memory record: A Japanese man has set a world record by reciting pi to 83,431 places from memory. More impressive than his memory is his determination: he had to start again after three hours because he lost his place, and this record follows an attempt last year that came to an abrupt halt when the building he was in closed for the night.

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July 1st, 2005

24Mb Broadband

24Mb Broadband

Be (bethere.co.uk) claims it’s going to provide the UK with 24Mb ADSL2 broadband connections sometime soon. Assuming they’re telling the truth (and I’ll believe it when I see it) you have to wonder just what the average user is going to do with that much bandwidth. Movie downloads (obv.) and multi-user video calling are pretty much the only applications I can think of, but it’s been a long week and my usually overactive imagination isn’t firing on all cylinders this afternoon.

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July 1st, 2005

Welcome

Welcome

It’s official: blogging is a valid and effective way for companies to start a conversation with their audience, according to Red Herring magazine.

Never ones to shy away from a new communications tool, London-based PR and copywriting consultancy Prompt Communications has set up this blog to bring you the latest news, trends and opinion from the world of high technology in a fun and digestible format. Welcome. We hope you’ll enjoy reading what we write and that you’ll want to join in the discussion.

And if you’re thinking of setting up a corporate blog and need seasoned tech news scouts with outstanding writing and communications skills, we know just the company to help you …

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