Archives for category: Tech
If ever there was a way to put the kiss of death on a new Social Network site, then surely it must be for me to blog about it. So I apologise in advance to Google. I didn’t want to kill your shiny new social network, but you made me do it.

What am I blathering about? Well if you haven’t heard yet, Google are in the process of launching Google+ (http://plus.google.com). By my reckoning this will be their third crack at the social network Market, or fourth if you include the ‘never-saw-the-light-of-day’, GoogleMe. They tried with Buzz and they tried with Wave both of which were…OK…. But neither of which killed Facebook.

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When they launched GoogleMail back in 2004, those of us that were lucky enough to get an invite (and that meant a gmail.com address – as opposed to a googlemail.co.uk address) were able to invite our friends to join. These invites became so sought after that people started selling them on eBay, such was the demand for a new email service. It appears that a similar situation might be arising with Google+. Sure enough, invites to what will surely become known as G+, are available on eBay for around 75USD. This is the very strange world that we live in.

The problem with trying to kick Facebook where it hurts is gaining momentum in the first place. Giving access to a select few is fine for Beta testing, but when you add in invites, you open yourself to a whole other level of trouble. Your invited early adopter will sign up and login and find no-one else in there to socialise with. A few of them might even write reviews sharing how underwhelmed they are by it all, and before you know it, G+ will have gone the way of Wave. Sort of defeats the whole idea of a Social Network.

From my perspective I hope they open it up to the rest of us as quickly as possible. I want to see it do well. As I’ve said many times before, I’m sick of the lack of control within Facebook, both for the end user and from it’s apparent developers. The sooner a viable alternative is available the better.

Back in the real world…. Today will see cycling (still no car) and possibly the purchase of a magic touch pad for my mac in preparation for OSX Lion which will land in the next couple of weeks. Lion with include a whole load of hand gestures to it’s revamped, iOS like interface, and so a touchpad will be the perfect compliment. Having worked all the hour god sends lately, I think I can justify a new bit of kit.

Daughter has recovered from her tonsillitis, and that means she’s speaking again, or more realistically she’s demanding again. I wouldn’t want her any other way.

One final rant, and this one is for the Post Office. What a bunch of thieving @&£)(:/:£)@&;/’s

Mrs G bought a lamp (25 quid and a fiver postage and packing). Sadly when it arrived, it was just that little bit too small, and didn’t look right. Fair enough. A return. Re-boxed in it’s original packaging and off to the post office.

“The cheapest recorded delivery please” says I, to the nice lady behind the counter.
“That’ll be £9.72, please” says she, with a perfectly straight face.
“Surely you jest” says I, “9 and three quarters of our best English pounds just to send a lamp that I received for half that cost? There must be sum (sic) mistake?”
“I’m sorry sir, but first class recorded delivery for 2.15kilograms is £9.72”
The penny dropped and I replied, “ah ha. I see your mistake. You’ve selected first class, when for the purposes of a return parcel, second class will more than suffice. A simple change I’m sure, my good lady”
But to my horror she went on to declare “because your parcel weighs more than 1kilogram, it cannot be sent by second class”

Now, I’m a fairly simple man, but pray do tell me, what the FECK! has the weight of the parcel got to do with what class it can be sent as? I don’t care if you stick on the back of a donkey, or in a wheel barrow or strap it to the shells of a heard of snails, as long as it gets there. There’s no rush, and it doesn’t need to be presented on a red velvet cushion with gold braiding. I was of a mind to break the dam thing in two as you can imagine. I’d almost be better off keeping it and selling it at a car boot sale for a tenner. In the end we’ve given the post office 15 quid and have nothing to show for it. Mugged.

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With that, I’m off to open an account with DHL in my local staples. It’s got to be cheaper, but what pains me is it’s stories like this that will be the death of the once great Royal Mail. Greedy fudge-wits.

Have a great weekend.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Cross shire journeying today. Following the immense success of yesterday’s haircut, and when I say success, I don’t necessarily mean on my part, but it was a success for the barber insofar as there was hair and he cut it…. until there was hardly any hair left.  I think he got carried away with the discussion the room in general was having about Kate Middleton’s sister, Pippa.  Such are the ways of Barber shops and not a quartet in sight I noted.  The remains of my hair make me look rather extremely right wing. I’m not as bald as a Chelsea fan 🙂 but I’d be alright in the army.  I have it on good authority that it will grow back.
There was also a general failing on the part of Maplin. Very disappointing as they are usually such good value for money, and almost always have what I’m looking for in the way of geeky electronikery. On this particular occasion it was a replacement Bluetooth earpiece for the iPhone.  I wouldn’t ordinarily condone the idea of an earpiece, and they’re certainly not to be used in an office environment, (they just make you look self important and therefore stupid). However, when it comes to driving anywhere, you need a decent hands free solution, and of course you would never make an outgoing call. I’ve had a perfectly good one up until now (which I do use in my home office – where no-one can see me looking stupid until we all start using “Facetime” properly) but the “hook” that goes behind the ear has finally given up the ghost and fallen off. Hence the need for a replacement.
The rule here appears to be don’t skimp on the price, because the audio quality will show it’s cheap.  Sure enough, 15 quid doesn’t do it.

It might look great, but it sounded awful.  The badman has once again come to my rescue though, as he has the exact same model as I had previously that he never uses.  I imagine that’s because even with a headset in his ear, he wouldn’t be able to hear a damn word above the volume of the throbbing diesel engine of his off-roader, or the roar of his vespa.  Or perhaps like me he thinks they make you look like a bit of a tit.
In other news….
Daughter is going to be away for a few days, off down south until Friday.  Missing her already. She just needs to keep away from the Lions.
L’s father passed away on Friday, which while expected is still deeply sad, and I hear the G-B’s mother has also passed away, so yet more sadness there.
Talk of G-B reminded me to get accomodation organised for the AGS 5th Anniversary do in August.  It being on the bank holiday weekend, and so close to Mrs G’s birthday, I’ve had to tread carefully. The long and the short of that means that Triple B and I will not be in the same hotel as the rest of the lads because it’s fully booked. On the plus side, we’re in a much better hotel that’s centrally located and almost double the price. Well, you can’t have everything, but I have no doubt it’ll be a great time – as is always the case when we get together.
And with that, I’m away to the northern edges of the shires.
Adieu.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

No news this morning. Literally nothing. Switch on the TV and it just says “No or Bad Signal” emblazoned across the middle of it. How very tedious. It seems the BBC have packed up and gone home in our Freeview neck of the woods…

Ah! and then the little grey cells kick in and I can recall what has happened. It’s digital switchover day for the Ridge Hill transmitter (I am available for after dinner speaking should you find my topics of conversation as riveting as I can see they are!). All that’s needed is a quick retune and all should be well again. Not a bit of it!. What the ruddy-heck is occurring here? We have a couple of tellyboxes, so I go and have a fiddle with the other one to see if it’s unique to the first. Sure enough it shows the same initial problem – the disappearance of the BBC, but a retune of that one and everything is well. It’s starting to look like the problem could be with my 2005 model Humax.

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Instead of giving up all hope though, let’s just give it the old “Full Factory Reset” on the off chance.. Press relevant menu option…. Hold Breath… Et Voila!!! Fixed. Sometimes technology is just too complicated even for itself.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

What a truly excellent Friday that felt like a Saturday. It’s always nice when you feel like you’re getting an extra day and yesterday was no exception.
As planned – although not on schedule as events involving so many kids never are – we trundled off to Cooper’s Hill (made famous by the rolling of the Cheese) for an energetic hike through the woods to Cranham.
http://maps.google.co.uk/?ie=UTF8&ll=51.82257,-2.152033&spn=0.028064,0.084114&t=h&output=embed
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The push to the top of Cooper’s Hill is one of those climbs that leaves you feeling like you don’t do enough exercise no matter how much exercise you actually do do. (Did you just write do do ?? Ed). However, on days like this it also leaves you in no doubt that it’s absolutely worth the lung busting burning agony.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

At this time of year the tree colours are incredible. To see the luscious greens slowly turning to reds and oranges before disappearing altogether is a sight that anyone would be heartbroken to lose, and just reminds me that I don’t want to live on the Mediterranean or the west coast of the US really, even if I think I do.
From here we head south easterly along a short stretch of the cotswold way through the woods. A left turn and down hill past the woodsmans cottage and the across the road and back into the woods to drop down into Cranham itself.

It’s a beautiful little village trapped in a valley and feels like it’s cut off from the world. Near the top of one of the tiny roads is an equally tiny pub “The Black Horse”. With a proper open fire and proper beer and a proper home cooked (not too fancy but huge portions) menu, it was just what was required.

Of course the ordering and delivery of food and beverages is made over complicated by the shear numbers of people involved and the fact that everyone wants something slightly different but the Barman did an excellent job of keeping us all organised and the food and superb beer were quaffed and enjoyed greatly.
The return journey involves a lot of up hill work and on this occasion took the same route as before. As the kids explained this is a particularly dangerous strategy, because by going back the way you came the Indians are sure to know where you’ve been and are likely to ambush you. All too late had I realized we’d forgotten to cover our tracks on the way in to the village. A schoolboy error (apparently). This gem of very useful information was made all the more pertinent when the kids also revealed this logic to have been proven by their cousins who never retrace their steps and instead strive to find an alternate route. The system must work, as the cousins, as yet have never been ambushed by said Indians, in these or any other parts. Fun times.
The beauty of conversations with 7 year olds is the way their logic produces all sorts of hitherto unknown facts. For example, I hadn’t realised that I’m now logically a grandparent. It turns out that once you’re kids are no longer kids and are grown up, you’re no longer a parent, but automatically a grand parent. Well thanks for that nephew of mine. I shall remember it for future use and try my best to embarrass you with it at a later date. Probably during your university application.
By this time we’d also had the sad news that daughter was required to help out at work in the evening and so our little party of scattered family was to come to a close. We traipsed back to the bottom of the Cheesey hill and from there back home. For those wishing to try it out, we made it last almost 3 and half hours, but two of those were spent sat in the pub eating, so a 45 minute walk each way. Longer if you’re covering your tracks.

All was not completely lost though, as Mrs G and I were able to join them all again in the evening for a well deserved curry, frivolity, a number of “was-lovely-to-see-yous” and couple of “we’ll-be-up-to-visit-you-all-soons” before they were due to head back north to bonnie Scotland.
One tiny bit of tech note…  Daughter’s new camera was the test bed for these photo’s (A Samsung PL150 – £130 – other cameras are available) which she’ll be taking on her forthcoming Thailand trip. It’s done a good job. Might be a little small for my clunky hands, but it takes a damn good picture as I’m sure you’ll agree.
And then there’s a beutiful little app for the iPad called “TiltShiftGen” Which enabled me to take this shot of Tesco’s…

….and turn it into this beautiful model village…

Best of all, it’s now only just Saturday morning. The weekend awaits and I hear there’s a beer festival at The New Inn in Gloucester. Ahhh, to sip, perchance to drink.. Who knows, but gotta keep an eye out for the Injuns, especially at my age.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

What the world really needs is yet another phone on the Market to make the job of choosing and buying a phone just that little bit harder. Until today there were four main choices. A Blackberry, An Android based phone, A Nokia or an iPhone. To be fair “other phones are available” but to my mind the question is why?  

Regardless, choosing one from four isn’t to bad. But now you have to choose from five thanks to the inventors of BSOD, or to the less geeky of you, the Blue Screen Of Death. And so it’s come to pass that Microsoft have finally realised they’re lagging behind the competition (again) and the boss that isn’t Bill Gates has officially unveiled the Windows Phone 7. Steve Ballmer has given us a wealth of information, most of which is irrelevant, but some of which is interesting. I’ll try and boil it down to the useful stuff…

There will be 9 (so far) different handsets. These will be built by Dell, Samsung, LG & HTC. They will be available in 30 different countries and on over 60 different networks, but they will be exclusive to different carriers in different countries.

Here’s a summary of the Spec’s I’ve seen so far in ascending screen size….
Manufacturer Model Processor Screen Resolution Style Storage Camera Video Battery Talk & Standby
LG Quantum 1GHz Snapdragon 3.5” 480×800 Slide out Keyboard 16Gb 5MP 720p 7hr T, 19days S
HTC 7 Pro 1GHz 3.6” 480×800 Full Keyboard 8Gb 5MP 720p 6hr T, 15days S
HTC 7 Mozart 1GHz 3.7” 480×800 Candy Bar 8Gb 8MP 720p 6hr T, 15days S
LG Optimus 7 1GHz Snapdragon 3.8” 480×800 Candy Bar 16Gb 5MP 720p 7hr T, 19days S
HTC Surround 1GHz Qualcomm 3.8” 480×800 Slide out speaker 8Gb 5MP 720p 4hr T, 11days S
HTC 7 Trophy 1GHz 3.8” 480×800 Candy Bar 8Gb 5MP 720p 6hr T, 15days S
Dell Venue Pro 1GHz Qualcomm 4.1” 480×800 Vertical Slide 8Gb 5MP 720p 7hr T, 14days S
HTC HD7 1GHz Qualcomm 4.3” 480×800 Touch Screen 16Gb 5MP 720p 6hr T, 13days S
Samsung Focus / OMNIA 7 1GHz Qualcomm 4” 480×800 Touch Screen 8Gb 5MP 720p 3hr T, 10days S
It’ll be very interesting to see a) what the pricing is like and b) what the performance of these devices is like.  By comparison, and just because I am shamelessly biased now, here’s the same specs for the iPhone 4:
Manufacturer Model Processor Screen Resolution Style Storage Camera Video Battery Talk & Standby
Apple iPhone 4 1Ghz Underclocked to 750 3.5” 640×960 Touch Screen 32Gb 5MP 720p 7hr T, 12days S
I don’t think for a minute that they’re anything like a threat to the iPhone, but it’s entirely possible they could get enough developers behind it over the next 12 months to at least start making some in roads. Unless of course, the likes of Apple & Google pull something else out of the bag.

With MS garnering some support from even @StephenFry (a well known Apple proponent) there is most definitely a battle royal taking place in the smartphone market place. As always, these things are usually good for the consumer, but can end up being fatal for the protagonists.  Time will tell eh?

See and download the full gallery on posterous


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

“Enough whinging and moaning.  Time to get off me harris and do something about it!!” , is what I said last week to myself during a particularly strong bout of taking myself to one side and having a serious word in my shell-like. There was some whirring and clicking and things sort of fell into place which led me to finding this path that I now find myself upon and I’m trudging forward along it to see where it takes me.

As employees within Starfleet we are very lucky to be able to move around to differing roles within the business without too much risk to your career in the longer term. Of course it’s never quite as straight forward as that, but in theory it’s pretty simple.  The long and the short of this means that sometime in the next 3 months I will probably be doing something different. But I won’t hold my breath just yet.

OK – that’s enough work talk – Let’s see what else is going on…

Scobi’s looking for some guidance for his Home Theatre setup and managing his media, so I figured I’d share a short write up on the way I’ve been doing it for the past few years. Any questions, drop me a note or post a comment.

What’s the goal? To begin with, the goals were simple:

  • Listen to different music in different rooms
  • Watch different movies in different rooms
  • Watch family photo albums on a big screen

Back in the day when I was a believer of Microsoft, before I moved to the Mac world, the answer for me was Microsoft XP Media Center Edition (MCE). I had a smallish tower PC with a TV card in it that would capture my analogue signal. The MCE front end with associated remote was a nice way to watch, pause and rewind live TV as well as being able to watch DVD’s (via the DVD ROM), my own videos from the HDD, listen to MP3 music, and view photos. This after all is what you want your media center to do.

However, back then, the support was patchy, drivers and codecs were a headache and believe me there is nothing quite like a “General Protection Fault” or the “Blue Screen Of Death” during the recording of Coronation Street if you really want to feel the wrath of a woman scorned. On top of this, although it was possible to get it running with Sky, satellite TV could only be view via the analogue port due to tuner constraints meaning is was out of step with HD TV by the time that arrived on our shores.

It was these problems that led me away from the Microsoft solution and into the world of Apple TV. A shame, because there were two killer features, that I haven’t been able to replace as yet which I’ll come to in a moment.

This is the current setup.  

Sky+HD for the main TV in the living room. This takes care of the Corrie recording issue and allows for some decent HD content. There’s also a PS3 to provide Blue Ray content. 

The media Library sits across 2 Terabyte hard drives (1 Internal and 1 external) on the back of an iMac running iTunes – tucked away in the office. This is the core of the network and stores all of the data. Media that arrives at home get’s converted (the geeky phrase is “ripped”) to a suitable digital format and imported into an iTunes library. This is then available to Apple TV which sits silently and unobtrusively in the living room connected to the WiFi Network.

All of this is rigged to a wall mounted HD LCD and Dolby 5.1 Surround system which the Apple TV supports nicely.

Other rooms in the house have TV’s with iPod/iPhone connectors or the iPod/iPhone Composite AV Cable attached to them. This means that it’s possible to stream movies or music from the iMac to a remote iPod/iPhone (should point out we’re talking about “iPod touch” in this context, which has WiFi connectivity) and use a TV or other docking station for output. Furthermore if you want to move from room to room, well that just works because you’re on the WiFi Network and you can even sit outside with it if the mood takes you and the turbulent weather has subsided. The key to it all, is having the library central and available on the Network – it’s that simple.

This all works like a dream at the moment, but I have concerns. The downsides (which are only slight) are thus:

  • No true (1080p) Hi-Def support in the Library (Apple TV does 720, but my source is only as good as DVD)
  • No Skype in the living room
  • No Social media in the living room
  • Live TV still provided via Sky

Now, I can hear you saying the HD support is a bit of a bind, but not a problem. Skype & Social Media in the living room!!?@!?  What are you on Golfy?

Well, I’m not just running a Home theatre here, this is cutting edge stuff. In the Old MCE world, I have a small camera mounted above the TV and Video Sky calls could be neatly integrated because the whole thing was running on XP. I also had a wireless keyboard and could use MS Messenger for chat while watching the TV.  

In the future we’ll have something to fix that, be it Google TV, or Apple TV with Apps on it (which I think is highly likely), or something else altogether. But the key piece of technology there is the Internet, and so Internet connectivity to your TV in your living room (at least!) is a must have for future-proofing (or at least attempting to).  There are TV’s out today with some Internet connectivity already, but this is the new frontier for living room dominance and not (I repeat NOT) 3D-TV. But that’s another story.

Any other stuff to get off my chest?

X-Factor!  Seriously, What the feck is going on there ??  I’m done with it now that it’s been clearly shown up as an advertising campaign thinly disguised as a telent show. Just in case you were wondering where my logic comes from. It’s really down to last nights show that selects the final 12. The first seven minutes of this contained nothing but the previous days show. And when I say nothing I mean nothing save one very short voice over to say this would be when we find out who the final 12 are. Other than that it was Saturday nights show in 7 minutes. And this is what really galls me – they then went into an ad break!!!  7 minutes of old TV and an ad break! I’m sorry but you lost me right there.  

As I’m sure you’ve heard me say before it’s car crash TV (meaning you don’t want to look but you can’t take your eyes off it) so I allowed my rubber necking to continue to see who had actually been selected. In short, the judges decisions were simply appalling. And the most blatant of these is the selection of Katie Waissal who it transpires, already had a recording contract which Mr Cowell bought her out of just prior to the start of the series…. Goodnight X-Factor. Info here: Anorak.co.uk

http://www.youtube.com/v/7gazB-wXi0c&hl=en&fs=1

And finally, finally….  What a game of Golf that was!!!  Damn close in the end even after all that.  Without doubt the Ryder Cup is my favourite competition in the golfing world.  Europe v’s America is just great fun. Well done all involved and of course Graeme MacDowell for finishing it off. http://www.rydercup.com/2010/

Ta ra.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

In the fight for Social Geolocation supremacy, how many more applications can we take ?  It’s getting out of hand and pretty soon we’ll have more GPS tracking apps than we’ll know what to do with.  This year they’ve rocketed. But where’s it all heading and where will it end ?

Let’s see if I can summarise where we’re at.  These are the big players (alphabetically) in the market so far.

iPhone App Android App Blackberry App Virtual Rewards Real World Rewards
Foursquare Yes Yes Yes Yes Some
Facebook Yes Yes Not Yet No No
Geomium Yes Not Yet Not Yet No Some
Google Latitude Web Web Web No No
Gowalla Yes Yes Not Yet Yes No
Twitter Yes Yes Yes No No

As you can see they all have differing levels of functionality even if they are trying to do basically the same sort of thing.  Foursquare and Twitter tend to stand out because they’re readily available across all of the main mobile platforms.  Google Latitude isn’t far behind with a clean web interface, but there’s no checkin-in with Latitude. It’s on or off.

So are any of these actually any use to the users aside from being a bit of fun?

Well, there are some “Real World Rewards” available from Foursquare and Geomium highlights local deals to your current position, but ultimately they are a bit “gamey”. There’s not really any killer functionality that makes them a must have app.  I’m not suggesting they’re a complete waste of time, they just haven’t found their place yet. I still think they will.

One of the largest inhibitors is not knowing who you’re sharing your location information with and this feeds a basic level of paranoia among many people. In some cases rightly so.  You only have to have followed the news concerning http://pleaserobme.com/ to understand how this stuff can get out of hand. If you missed it, you can go back in time here.

Obvioulsy the answer is like anything else. Be aware of what you’re doing.  You don’t go to some strange city in the middle of the night and hand out pieces of paper with your bank details on do you ?  So why would you go online and tell complete strangers where you are at this precise moment ?  Share with your friends by all means. But if you’re an idiot, you’ll still get yourself into trouble at some point. You only have to have read a handfull of lamebook.com pages to know that.

I could foresee a time when these guys all end up merge into one big social network (probably called SocNet, or worse still – “Blue Banana” – or something equally inane) where we have bits of Facebook, geo-locationary statuses and micro-blogging all in one clean application that works on every platform. You’ll even be able to neatly segregate colleagues, celebs, family, friends, romans, countrymen… lend me your e- … sorry. Got carried away there. But you get the point. Each of these groups will be able to be kept separate in the Blue Banana world, to save you from yourself.

Will it ever happen?  Not this month.  Ask again in November. That’s how quickly it changes.

 


This post originally appeared here: Posterous
Yesterday’s golf was miserable. Not because of company, location, price or weather, but because I played one of my worst games in over a year. Simply horrible. Mrs G went to see T in the evening, Son was watching ‘the match’ at his mate’s house and daughter was at work, so by way of consolation S was up for a cheeky Tuesday beer in the local. This involved a good cycle ride (that’s every day so far) and four pints of wallop. 

What’s really annoying is the price of a pint has gone up 5p to £2.55. When it was £2.50 a fiver was your friend (When it was £1 a fiver could kill you! -Ed) but now you have to have a pile of 10p pieces or at least a tenner in your pocket just to be sociable!! Grr. Thank god for debit cards.

And on that subject, here’s QI for today if you haven’t seen it already.  Do you remember (or did you ever hear about) back in 1995 how there was a trial of a cashless system in the UK, centred around Swindon ??  Mondex was it’s name and replacing cash with cards was it’s aim. Sadly… it failed miserably. It was a very enthusiastic effort on the part of the then Midland Bank, National Westminster and British Telecom. At it’s peak and in even the busiest locations it managed a mere 2% of transactions. A valiant effort, but doomed to failure. Mostly because it was based on something that not everyone had. So you couldn’t take your Mondex card to London and buy anything for instance….  pretty pointless really. 

Before we get too carried away, it’s worth pointing out that Mondex didn’t just pack up and go home… nosiree. Instead they became the butt of one of the best Internet wide hoaxes back in 2004 when someone started the story that:

<blockquote>
Mondex is planning to replace money with biochips embedded in people’s heads and hands.
</blockquote>

This was accompanied by a picture of an RFID chip just to make it all that much more believable and terrifying.  Of course, none of that is true…

Well, that was all back then…  this is 2010… and jet packs and flying cars aside, we’re up to all sorts of incredible technological shenanigans*. Some bright spark who came up with Twitter, has now gone a step further and developed “SQUARE”. You’ll love this…   Square is an App for your phone which allows you to take payments from credit or debit cards via your handset.  That’s it.  Nothing more complicated.  Simple.  

Almost everyone has a credit or debit card (those that don’t can still pay with cash by the way – it’s just that involves them physically handing you some cash, notes or coins… just in case you’d forgotten) and payments with cards are almost as ubiquitous as payments with cash nowadays.

You can even get a card reader that plugs into the headphone socket of your phone to read the magnetic strip….

Awesome!!  So, where’s the catch ???

Well, I hate to say there is one, but there is.  You can’t have it if you live outside of the US.  Now, I think there might be a few very good reasons for this, not least of which is that in the UK we’ve gone all “chip and pin” and that’s not something that’s really happened stateside yet. In the UK magnetic strips are seen as vulnerable with readers (and writers) being common place tech.

Futhermore there’s been a significant amount of investment by the banks and financial instituions in the Chip and Pin system. It’s not going away in a hurry meaning getting square off the ground outside of the US could be a car crash.

Square’s official line on it is this:
<blockquote>
We are currently only available in the 50 US States, including DC. We are beginning to look into other markets, but at this time cannot support non-US entities. There is no specific timeline for our international rollout, but you have not been forgotten.

Keep your eyes on http://twitter.com/square for more information about our plans and development. We thank you for your patience.</blockquote>

In the meantime, if you’d like to know more, then this is the place to go see:
https://squareup.com/

Mrs G and I are off to spend cash, not Mondex on something nice by the sea. More on this tomorrow.

<hr>
* It’s a good word “Shenanigans”, meaning mischief; prankishness, deceit or trickery. But… after a little bit of digging, I think I prefer this definition:

The name of a game played 24/7/365 by people who know of its existence. The game is played by first saying “Shenanigans”, then, the person who said it is allowed to hit or otherwise hurt anyone within earshot of them at the time that they said it. The main target tends to be the groin on males and the chest on females. People who are within earshot when “Shenanigans” is said must say the word “Mulligan” 
as soon as they hear it to prevent being a target. If someone is hit either before or while you are saying the word “Shenanigans” or after they have said “Mulligan”, you are considered to have cheated and they get a free hit on you. Note that saying “Shenanigans” lasts indefinately until each person within earshot has said “Mulligan”
Bob: “SHENANIGANS!” *smacks Tom in the groin* 

or 

Bob: “SHENANIGANS!” 
Tom: “MULLIGAN!” 
*Bob hits Tom in the groin* 
Tom: oooh, that’s a free hit! *smacks Bob in the groin without penalty.*


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

While waiting and assisting in daughters recovery (which is going well but slowly you’ll be pleased to hear), I’ve been pondering big questions as is my occasional want. Afterall, wasn’t it Eleanor Roosevelt who said:
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
In my mind’s eye she may have been a batty old biddy in a similar vein to @CatBinLady although in reality, history records her as a powerhouse of a woman and far more than just the first Lady of the USA (while her husband was President) I suspect she was actually something akin to the tough 80’s Margaret Thatcher.

Now, to my big-ish question. Well, it’s a big sort of question in my world because I think it will have an impact on a large portion of the planets population eventually. Geo-located Social Media stuff again…. I seem to be harping on about this a bit, but to be fair, it’s moving along rapidly.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) usually have interesting and acurate speakers who follow their mantra with “Ideas Worth Spreading”, but for the first time I found myself heavily disagreeing with one of them. Just before I get into it, If you’ve not watched any of the TED speakers, I’d highly recommend their Top 10 Talks of all time. To get back to the point – Seth Priebatsch gave a talk entitled “Building the game layer on top of the world”. I hadn’t heard of him either, but it turns out he’s one of the guys behind the application “SCVNGR”. Here he is in action:

So can you guess where I’m going to disagree with him? I’ve long espoused my views on Facebook so it should come as no surprise that I was very pleased to hear/read that the new facebook will be arriving soon. (ed: Actually this article isn’t 100% correct. The source code will start to become available on the 18th, but the public alpha won’t be open until October). Hopefully it will bring some healthy competition that might shake up the zuckerberg machine. It’s not that I’m a facebook hater, but it is broken and needs fixing. If things go particularly badly for the FB crew there might even be enough material to make a second ‘Social Network’ movie. See, there’s always an upside. For their brand at least.

So for me, to hear our “Proud Princeton dropout” (who is self titled the “Chief Ninja” at SCVNGR – Oh dear) suggesting that Facebook is the Social Layer framework for connections and that it’s construction is complete and if you’re not happy about that, there is nothing you can do, just sounds naive and mis-judged. Half a billion people (the membership of Facebook) means that there are still a further 6 billion people (at least) that don’t use it.

You often find sites and applications now that will enable you to login using your facebook credentials rather than having to re-register with the particular system you’re about to use. This implies a level of trust with facebook which I’m not convinced exists. I’m concerned that developers and users alike are rushing headlong into a facebook disaster and we still have no alternative in sight. In fact, Seth’s only argument for facebook being the ruling force in terms of social network connections, is this lack of an alternative. This is why I still have high hopes for both Diaspora* and the heavily rumoured Google Me

That’s the first problem with Seth’s little chat. The second and more fundamental to his plans is that of the “game layer” or the “location-based social application market”. I hope you’re already aware that facebook is trying to join this game, all be it belatedly in the form of facebook places (So if you’ve got a facebook account, make sure you’ve got your security settings for “places” sorted out -Ed). Luckily, most of europe don’t have this functionality just yet, but it’s just around the corner. You have been warned. The big player in this market though, is Foursquare who seem to have a far more mature approach to the way it works and hot on their heels is Gowalla who both do fairly similar things.

They have both made a much bigger splash in the US than this side of the pond as yet, but they are starting to gain momentum as news of their existence surfaces. It’s all about checking in at locations like The supermarket, a football match, a concert, a shop…work, anywhere… In it’s early days (and we’re still in this phase in the UK to a certain extent) all you’re doing is sharing your whereabouts with your friends – or the world in general if that’s what you’d prefer. Over time, you earn badges for doing things (25 check-ins for example) and this provides you with a sort of status not unlike that outlined by Seth. Foursquare’s favourite badge has to be that of Mayor, which you can earn by checking into a place on multiple occasions over a period of time. Imagine being the Mayor of Lidl! – will wonders never cease?

So this is all well and good, but the bigger problem is “Do people want to broadcast the fact that they are in a particular location just for the sake of gaining a badge?”

I think the answer is most definelty no. So, Seth – to overlay gaming onto social networking is fine for the kids, but where is the benefit to the greater good??… However… When it starts to get interesting is when checking into a supermarket, for example, means you get your newspaper that you collect in store for free or something similar. Customer rewards!! In the US, the GAP store have already been trialling this, with a 25% discount for foursquare users checking in. It’s safe to say, that once the retailers and the public get behind a concept like this, it will go viral, and it will be big news.

So there we have it…. The idea is Geo/Social networking, the event is the launch of such products and the people? Well, they’re us dumb schmucks using it all….

Have a great day.
Sincerely, the Mayor of Golfy’s Office.

Not Castle Greyskull then?… Hmm.. OK, I can roll with that. To be honest, He-Man always came across as a bit effeminate to me, but anyway, I digress, and if you don’t know what that was all about, you can read it up here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Grayskull if you must.

Pentland Firth is the stretch of water between the northern tip of mainland Scotland (John O’Groats) and Hoy & South Ronaldsey which are the Southernmost parts the the Orkney mainland.


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This spot is about to become the source of some clean, green energy generation technology that’s larger than any other in the world.

A company called Atlantis Resources (I like them already with a name like that – I wonder if they refer to their CEO as “The Man from Atlantis” ?) unveiled an enormous tidal turbine device (known as the AK-1000) on Thursday in Invergordon. OK, perhaps enormous is a bit of an exhageration. A typical 3-5 Megawatt offshore wind turbine has a blade diameter of approximatly 120 meters.. The Atlantis AK-1000 1MegaWatt turbine has a blade diameter of just 18 meters – so actually, by comparison, it’s tiny.

The reason it’s so small and yet still so powerful is down to physics. Water is 832 times denser than air, meaning you can generate similar amounts of power with much smaller blade sizes. This has the added benefit of being able to cram more of them in underwater, and of course you can’t see them either. Theoretically everyone’s happy. Anyway, you can read all about the projects they’re working on at the Atlantis Resources website.

There was a stand out fact for me there though. Namely this:

It is estimated that in the United Kingdom, there is 18TWh/yr of technically extractable tidal current resource. 40% of this technically extractable resource is concentrated in the far north of Scotland (Pentland Firth and Orkney Islands).

18TWh/yr. How much is that then ? Interestingly enough it’s an insane amount. I’ve had a look at the “BMRS” website, here for the most up to date and accurate numbers.

This BMRS website provides near real time and historic data about the Balancing Mechanism which is used by the National Grid (System Operator) as a means of balancing power flows on to and off the electricity Transmission System in Great Britain.

  In summary:

  • 18TWh is 18,000,000 MWh. 
  • Current UK consumption is 33,800 and 41,000 MWh per day. 
  • Therefore 18TWh would provide enough energy for the entire UK for 439 Days (or 1.2 years)

Can somone remind me again why we’re NOT going all out to get the full 18MWh’s worth installed? I mean there’s plenty of Sea down here by Torquay.  Get and stick some windmills under it, then all these Silver surfers that have retired to these parts won’t have to have tax payer funded subsidies to pay their electricty bills, and that would mean I could afford to play more golf…..   Maybe…. 

OK – it is highly possible that I’m over simplifying here – but you get the idea.

Happy Saturday – Four!!!!