Feet up!

ID cards: Alchemy, or just bullshit?

I'm catching up on Slashdot, and I stumbled across this story - Your Right to Travel Anonymously: Not Dead Yet.

In a nutshell it's apparently near impossible to take an internal flight or long distance bus or rail journey in the US without having to produce government issued photo ID. Why is this so? Here's the Slashdot answer:

The requirement to show ID for flying on commercial passenger flights started in 1996, in response to the crash of TWA Flight 800. This crash was very likely caused by a mechanical failure. How showing ID to board a plane prevents mechanical failures is left as an exercise to the reader.

Hardly convincing grounds, especially when one considers that all of the September 11th terrorists had government issued ID.

To make matters even more surreal the US government are currently refusing to confirm or deny whether a law exists that insists identification must be shown.

This situation is absolutely nonsensical, and Tom's allusions to alchemy ring very true.

[Thu, 26 Aug 2004 14:19] | [rants/ukid] | #

First up against the wall

Mugshot of Alistair Darling Come the revolution...

So Alistair Darling wanted much more power and has seized control of the railways, I wonder if anyone has told him that with power comes responsibility, I suspect not.

Given that my journey into work on Tuesday was delayed by over 2 hours by a combination of a broken rail, and inept provision of alternative transport, can I assume that Alistair is entirely to blame? Should I send him the bill for wasting my time direct to Westminster or just issue a writ for damages?

And what is it with politicians and hair? I've yet to see a politician with anything like a respectable haircut, is it the twisted mind that makes the hair rebel?

[Thu, 26 Aug 2004 14:00] | [rants] | #

Tea time

Mad tea orientated goings on in #mobitopia this morning. Shall I be mother?

[Wed, 25 Aug 2004 13:19] | [comedy] | #

Canning Town smells

Apparently that's official. Stuart reports that Canning Town station was closed this morning because of a "funny smell", if that's valid grounds for closing a tube station the tube would be a far quieter emptier place...

[Wed, 25 Aug 2004 13:18] | [comedy] | #

Saints and Sinners

Weird stuff down at St Mary's the last few days. First off Saturday's game, which Saints won with a disputed last minute penalty, during the awarding of this the referee Andy D'Urso managed to book a Blackburn player twice, but not send him off! So slender was D'Urso's tenuous grasp on reality that the FA have charged him with "less than proficiently applying the laws of the game".

Then this morning the Sturrock affair moved to a conclusion when he left "by mutual agreement". One wonders if this is based around the on-going James Beattie transfer speculation. Did Luggy state "either he goes or I do" or "if he goes so do I"? Strange, after all you'd need your head examined if you thought Beattie was worth more than a tenner, yet again he wandered aimlessly through the game, his only contributions being to fall over in the box and tuck away the resulting penalty.

[Mon, 23 Aug 2004 13:54] | [football] | #

EuroFoo

An apparantly endless role call of top geezers are off to EuroFoo this weekend; Anil, Matthew, and Diego are there to wave the Mobitopia flag. Frank was going, but he appears to have been wooed by a beautiful young woman, lucky Mara!

I'm looking forward to following this on irc, on the #eurofoo channel on irc.freenode.net and on hearing the results of talks like Opening Up Programme Information For People To Build Stuff With which sounds spookily like RDF Radio, but done by people who know what they're doing...

One quick RDF Radio thought: if you're broadcasting a sports event, have the current score and other stats accessible on the RDF channel. Time of the data needs to be presented too, and preferably timing of the event too, so you know that there's 5 minutes to go or whatever.

[Fri, 20 Aug 2004 13:58] | [tech] | #

OLB - One Line Bio

This looks like a good meme du jour from David Galbraith, a one line bio is terse, readable and above all bloody useful.

Here's mine: <olb>British; software developer; Technical Director of Fineway Solutions Ltd; Mobitopian; Interests - networks (social, electrical, wireless).</olb>

It probably needs a bit of updating and finessing but it's certainly good enough for starters. The interesting thing is that I pulled that straight from my Foaf file where olb is part of the bio vocabulary coincidentally co-authored by a David Galbraith :-)

[Fri, 20 Aug 2004 13:22] | [tech] | #

RDF Radio

Big thanks are due to Phil Wilson for pointing me in the direction of Audioscrobbler's RDF output, something that I'd claimed was missing, so you can now see what I've been listening to in glorious RDF as well as HTML.

This in itself doesn't sound like a big deal, but it provides a great example of using the MusicBrainz RDF metadata vocabulary, which is just what I needed for RDF Radio.

So what's RDF Radio? Mostly vapour right now, but it's a concept Matt Croydon and I have been tossing around for a few weeks. The basic ideas of which are a little similar to Nokia's much touted but equally vapourous Visual Radio.

The main tenet of both is to provide some additional metadata about an existing "Radio" audio stream on a side channel. Visual Radio appears to be quite tightly constrained around proving visual (wap/html based?) user oriented information over GPRS as an adjunct to FM radio. RDF Radio on the other hand is intended to provide timely pure RDF/XML metadata that supplements any broadcast stream; FM, AM, webcast and much more. The initial thoughts are to provide information such as:

As you can imagine this could be a very rich data set, Virgin Radio's website (and their Now Playing page for instance) provides some indication of just how much metadata could be easily obtained with some simple web scraping, although ideally the station owners would generate the RDF Radio data themselves.

What could one do with the RDF Radio data? One immediate idea would be to emulate Visual Radio. But with well constructed metadata one can do far more than that, even constructing personal radio stations stitched together from your listening preferences and the playlists of many radio stations. With sufficient processing and time shifting of streams, you could construct a virtual iPod that "contained" your favourite tunes.

[Wed, 18 Aug 2004 13:04] | [RDF] | #

Putting "Feet up!" on the map

With any luck, this should put "Feet up!" on the map. Out of the handful of UK based mapping sites Multimap really seem to be getting a clue about getting Bloggers engaged in using their product.

Richard Rutter of clagnut explains how to put your blog on the map.

Multimap are also one of the better sites for the old grab a map and save it on your mobile trick that's just so useful when venturing into an unknown part of town.

Also fun on the mapping front is Map24's rather funky zooming map viewer.

[Mon, 16 Aug 2004 14:16] | [tech] | #

Where's Jabber heading?

An interesting proposal from Peter St. Andre on where Jabber should be going, he's suggesting that the core protocols are basically sane (I've not dug into them in enough depth to find significant holes in that argument), and that what's holding Jabber back is the lack of a standard client and server.

His idea is because so many of the current servers and clients appear to be small-ish half finished projects, and concentrating the efforts from these dozens of projects into one master project may be far more fruitful. I'm thinking tower of Babel, but you never know, with a little co-ordination and ego-soothing this may be possible.

I think some of the current clients are actually maturing nicely, Psi and Exodus are certainly very usable, so I'm not sure about the demand for a standard client. However, perhaps something simple and moderately lightweight would be ideal as a introductory client. I myself used Jabber Inc's old client for a long time because it was simple and worked.

One thing that Peter suggested that does sound really useful is for the standard server to be aimed at a small to medium size organisations, and I also think writing this in Python is a good choice. Yes, I'm a Python fan, but I'm also a C++ developer and I'm thinking of the multi-platform issues, which Python has far fewer than many other languages.

David Thomson's also got a few thoughts about the proposals which follow on quite nicely from his earlier thoughts about Gibber (Google and Jabber). Peter follows up too, and he also seems to be veering away from a standard client a little.

One further thought on the standard client/server, should there be a reference implementation of the Jabber standards? I.e. from a users' point of view they wouldn't necessarily be the nicest or best to use, but for a Jabber developer the protocol handling would be a textbook example of how to do things. I suspect a well designed and very usable fully standards compliant client/server would be more far better.

Stop Press: Having just talked dwlt through connecting to a few transports with Psi it seems to me that the requirement for a simple easy-to-use working client is paramount.

[Mon, 16 Aug 2004 13:54] | [jabber] | #

Olympian Stuff

mOlympics logo

Nice work by Russ on launching mOlympics, it's blindingly obvious stuff, a mobile portal for aggregating news about a huge event, but given how much the official Olympic site sucks, Russ has picked a nice little niche.

It's going to be quite an Olympics for news given that it's not started yet and two Greek stars have already been involved in an epic saga in avoiding drugs tests and getting hospitalised in a traffic accident, whilst two other Greek athletes have apparantly attempted suicide, and is the World anti-doping chief's attack on the US about drugs a pre-emptive strike?

The opening ceremony is currently on and it rocks, bizarrely the Americans don't get to see it for hours though, is that because there's a hint of fake nudity?

It's strange how there's still so few good sites with mobile content, although I seem to be getting involved with far more of them recently!

[Fri, 13 Aug 2004 20:50] | [mobile] | #

BugMeNot

BugMeNot is a great project and the Mozilla extension makes it even easier to use. The BugMeNot FAQ points out the stupidity and anti-web nature of the compulsory registration sites.

It makes you wonder why sites like The Age still try to introduce these outmoded pre-cluetrain concepts. Imagine having the choice of two shops, one which asked you to fill in a 3 page form for everything you bought or one that just let you buy stuff, which would you choose? And how exactly is pissing off your customers a good business plan?

Incidentally, I'm very tempted to follow BugMeNot's registration scheme or demand that:

Any subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, agents, or employees of any site employing compulsory user registration mechanisms are not authorized to access the content or services of this site.

Draconian? Sure, but no more so than compulsory registration.

[Wed, 11 Aug 2004 13:27] | [rants] | #

Real Evil

I'm not the only one who considers Real Player to be evil, but given stuff like the Finn Brothers webcasts one almost has to have it installed these days.

I'm starting to have a look at some of the alternatives like Freecorder, Total Recorder, and other ways to record Real streams. The intent is to gain Tivo like features, so I can watch or listen to stuff at a convenient time or even convert the format into something playable on my phone for the daily commute.

Little known fact - there's a command line option for the Nokia Multimedia Convertor, so you can batch or schedule the conversion process.

[Tue, 10 Aug 2004 13:37] | [tech] | #

Traffic Update

We hit our July target of 5000 readers for Fun-1 (just). Ewan's announced the August target of 6500, which to be honest we were both rather pessimistic about, what with 3 weeks between races and a test ban. Fortunately the Da Matta sacking and the Button soap opera have sent scads of new readers our way.

September's target? 10K? Who knows!

[Tue, 10 Aug 2004 13:23] | [motorsport] | #

RBU - Request By User

Or how to write less user-hostile software: RBU 001: Don't make me wait in the dark. This is obvious, but so many developers forget or ignore it. Nice stuff Frank, I hope this is the first in a long series. For starters I'd like to suggest a related RBU - if a task takes a long time let me do something else in the meantime.

[Mon, 09 Aug 2004 13:04] | [tech] | #

Finns on Auntie

The Finn brothers tour continues apace, they're now in the UK. Yesterday was the Fan club gig in London's Regent's Park, and there's plenty of action throughout the week. A live session on Virgin Radio at 2:45pm today (BST, i.e. UTC+1), and an interview/session on Johnny Walker's Radio 2 show this evening, followed on Thursday by an appearance on Gideon Coe's Radio 6 show and an instore in London.

A busy schedule, it's a shame the BBC stick with the grotty Real Audio nonsense for their streaming though.

Update (20040810): Looks like the Virgin session is now going to be on Weds, the Johnnie Walker show was pretty good, although Tim's voice seems to have a a life and tuning of its own. I guess recordings will turn up on the Jane-Music ftp site shortly.

Update (20040811): Monday's Johnnie Walker session is available for re-listening, and the Virgin session should be sometime between 7 and 10pm tonight on Ben Jones' Most Wanted show.

[Mon, 09 Aug 2004 13:02] | [music/FinnBrothers] | #

Oyster Festival Watch - Sunday

And so it comes to a close, a pretty busy day with plenty of activity focussed on the harbour, like the oyster opening and eating competitions, capped off with the finale fireworks.

Yet another highly successful Oyster Festival, it's been really hectic in the town all week, and the weather's been great.

[Sat, 07 Aug 2004 23:25] | [general] | #

Oyster Festival Watch - Saturday

It's carnival time!

The main event today is Whitstable's 107th Carnival, we'll be watching it near the start in Tankerton, and it's usually pretty surreal, especially after seeing all the floats getting ready in Tankerton's back roads. The procession usually gets even more anarchic towards the end. Good stuff!

[Sat, 07 Aug 2004 09:30] | [general] | #

Shiny New Toys

I'm playing with a few shiny new (virtual) toys right now with the aim of making my life better or more efficient or something.

First off: Feeds, I've mostly switched from JabRSS to Bloglines. It's more a horses for courses sort of problem, I'm keeping some feeds in JabRSS, but for the others I can pick and choose when to read things in Bloglines rather than having the immediate delivery of JabRSS. I've grabbed Martin's feeds to populate my profile quickly, don't take it too seriously yet though, there's some feeds in there that I'll never read and others that are still only in JabRSS. I'll have to have a look at the mobile output of Bloglines sometime too.

Music: I've finally managed to get last.fm to work, not sure what I was doing wrong but it's running nicely for me now, as you can see from the oddball stuff I've been listening to. Last.fm are tied in with Audioscrobbler so that my music preferences for one reflect nicely in the other. It'd be nice to have my data in RDF or a feed or something, but it's certainly scrapeable. The only downside is that I've switched back to Winamp from Zinf, for Winamp's Audioscrobbler plugin, and whilst Winamp 5 is much nicer than Winamp 3 (or whatever I last used) I still prefer Zinf's simplicity. I should have lashed up an Audioscrobbler contributing plugin for Zinf, rather like Matt Biddulph's command line Python app, but I'd never got around to it...

Moblogging: Something I've been meaning to get into, maybe LifeBlogger will do the trick, and it'd give me give a reason to configure xml-rpc and update this pyblosxom install.

[Fri, 06 Aug 2004 14:05] | [tech] | #

Oyster Festival Watch - Friday

So the week's coming to a close, and today's programme is almost like a drawing in of breath before the hectic finale weekend. Just two mellow events today; story time for 5-10 year olds in the Tower Hill tea gardens, and Past Times with local historian Tony Blake for the grown-ups.

[Fri, 06 Aug 2004 07:04] | [general] | #

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