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Archive for June 2008



A Beta From The Beeb

Posted on Sunday 29th June 2008 at 00:00
F5. *Click* ....F5...*Click*......F5.......... *Click*......F5....F5............CTRL+F5........*Thump*

......

Oh Fuck Off!

Anyone who has so far had a play with the Reworked BBC iPlayer, which is currently in beta testing, will be only too familiar with that sequence of events, as it's just a small snippet of what you must go through if you wish to actually use the iPlayer for, oh I don't know, watching stuff.

I am rather hoping that this technical flaw is a symptom of beta testing, coz if you think normal iPlayer drops its connection to the BBC servers rather too often, you ain't seen nothing yet! I have sat for nearly 90 minutes attempting to watch all 22 minutes of the latest edition of the BBC's wonderful Click programme, and I'm still 4 minutes from the end.

This is a terrible shame really, because in most other aspects, the new iPlayer is a huge leap forward from the current one, which itself was pretty good. This beta features a reworked user interface, integrating both TV and Radio into a single player, as well as lots of small improvements, such as a list of recently watched programmes for you to go back to and an enhanced 'More Like This? system.

The programme information below the enlarged viewing window is now collapsible and contains both programme and series information that compares in length with that made available on the Radio Times website and, best of all, they've finally included a link to the programme's website!

Unfortunately it doesn't actually go there yet. Instead it links you to the beta of a new programme guide section of the BBC website, which also fails to provide any links to the actual website for the programme you actually want. I'm assuming they'll fix this eventually.

Another rather snazzy enhancement, which I suspect is a response to user feedback, is the ability to resume your watching from where you left off last time. Whilst I imagine they've put this in with the intention of allowing viewers to pause programmes and come back to them on different days, it has the added benefit of speeding up the recovery every time the player crashes and you have to refresh the page.

Aside from the crashing, the one thing that really does irritate me about the design for the new player is the information displayed when you hover your mouse over a programme link. Whereas before you could find out at a glance how much time you had left to watch the programme, now you have to click on through to the programme itself to get the same info. On the other hand, at least once you get there, you are told not only how much time is left, but also the exact time (to the nearest minute) that the programme will be removed and also (for some programmes) the date on which it was originally broadcast.

Although I've not been able to find out anything official about this yet, it would appear that the Beeb have decided to extend the time for which programmes are available on the site from 7 days to 14, which , if nothing else, earns this beta a big thumbs up from me.

To round off this mini review: the iPlayer Beta is pretty good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say very good. The technical problems will sort themselves out before it goes live, because they did with the previous version, and once they do, I'll be first in line to absorb all my BBC content from this one, superbly well thought out website.

Nice one Beeb!

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IPod-tastic!

Posted on Wednesday 25th June 2008 at 00:00
About a year ago, I sat in StarBucks with a cup of coffee and my HTC Vox smartphone and wrote this post to test out my device.

Now, a year on I'm testing another new handheld piece of pricey kit. This time it's my new iPod Touch, and I'm head over heels in love with it! Let's start with the physical: it sits perfectly in my hand, weighing just enough that I know it's there, but not nearly enough that it could ever tire me out. The screen is 3.5" of crystal clear, touch screen goodness that is more than adequate both for web browsing and watching video or viewing pictures. It knows which way up it is and will adjust from portrait to landscape views quickly and without hassle whenever you tilt the device accordingly.

Sadly for the designer of the shell, it is completely eclipsed by the incredibly sleek and intuitive user interface. I'm typing this on the touchscreen keyboard, which despite being so small that I must be hitting 3 or 4 keys at once, it is quite rare for me to mistype and it is actually a pleasure to tap away at this thing. If you do make a mistake, the interface will compensate and correct your typing as you go. Obviously this can be a pain when typing non-standard words, such as web urls.

The features are also pretty impressive. As well as all the wonderful iPod features, it contains a very usable email client and a fully functioning web browser, capable of correctly displaying even my poorly coded sites :-)

I've only had this device for a week and a half but already this has replaced my mobile as my favourite handheld device for email and web access. I would love to stay and chat about this all day, as I really do love it, but sadly work must intrude once again. Rest assured I will be reading your comments on here as they come in :-)

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Poking Fun At The Giant

Posted on Monday 23rd June 2008 at 00:00
A bumper selection of videos for you this evening, and by bumper, I mean TWO!

First we have one that was played by Microsoft Technology Evangelist Steve Clayton at the Nlab Social Networks Conference, which you can read more about here. It is a highly amusing parody of what would happen if Microsoft tried to design the packaging for the iPod:


(This is an embedded YouTube video and must be viewed using a Flash enabled web browser. The video may not appear in your RSS feed, so please click through to the website to see it properly.)

Then my good friend and fellow blogger Custard linked me to a similar video, parodying the upcoming Microsoft iPhone Zune:


(This is an embedded YouTube video and must be viewed using a Flash enabled web browser. The video may not appear in your RSS feed, so please click through to the website to see it properly.)

I hope you find these two videos as amusing as I did :-)

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How A Geek Changed The World

Posted on Saturday 21st June 2008 at 00:00
I have to leave for work in a few short minutes, but before I do, here is a quick link for you:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/page/item/b00c6sdc.shtml&src=ip_potpw

This is the BBC iPlayer version of the programme about Bill Gates, broadcast to commemorate his retirement from Microsoft next week. I thought it was a fascinating biography, not just of the man himself, but also of much of Microsoft's own history.

If you have a spare hour and are interested, I highly recommend taking a look.

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Dispatches From Leicester

Posted on Thursday 19th June 2008 at 00:00
Written last night in the hotel room which turned out to only have expensive internet access, hence uploading the following morning

Well the journey up to Leicester was rather hellish, with an hour and a half of sitting in stationary traffic whilst emergency resurfacing work was carried out on the M42.

I'm writing to you now from the bedroom of my hotel, which we visited earlier to drop bags off before going to a session by the Creative Writing and New Media MA group at DMU. I must confess to being rather impressed by the presentations given, which were both professional and inspiring. One lady was attempting to use Web 2.0 to raise awareness of the situation in Burma, whilst another had combined a blog, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to write an online novel, in which the characters lives were played out across these various different platforms.

After the presentations had ended, we moved base camp to a fantastic Indian restaurant, where we spent most of the evening. The conversation that flowed was, not surprisingly, all about new media and social networking, and this was enhanced when it was discovered that a party from a Leicester Uni conference were also in the room. They came over to us and we talked about the similarities between the two conferences and how they were looking at the Web 2.0 problem from the point of view of the museum sector, where as we will be looking at the whole thing.

A short walk back to the hotel found 6 or 7 of us sat in the Saloon Lounge for an hour, drinks in hand, discussing dissertations and projects on various postgraduate courses. We have an early start tomorrow, with conference registration at 9, so I'll sign off here and get some shut eye.

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Nlab Social Networks Conference 2008

Posted on Thursday 19th June 2008 at 00:00
Here we are at the start of the Nlab Social Networks Conference at De Montfort University in Leicester. The schedule for the day is a busy one, but nonetheless, I'm hoping to live blog my way through the various talks and workshops, for your reading pleasure.

I'm actually writing this passage in my hotel room, as last year I had to wait until the registration session, which meant I had to combine typing my introduction with meeting all the other delegates. This year, I'm trying to be organised a little better.

I know it is common for many live blogs to be written in reverse chronological order, with the end of the day at the top of the page, but I figure that since most people reading this will be doing so after the event, it makes more sense for them to read down the page rather than up it.

Here we go:

9:34am - The refreshment room is buzzing with delegates. Some, like myself are on laptops, frantically preparing to blog the day. Most though are stood around the room, drinks in hand, discussing the programme for the day. It is certainly going to be a busy one, with no less than 5 keynote speakers. It'll be very interesting to see what they have to say...

11:00am - Steve Clayton from Microsoft gave a very humorous talk on small business. He discussed issues of trust and the benefits of blogs in business, which can open them up to their customers. It some ways it was similar to last year's MS talk, but the message is still a good one.

Steve Clayton - Nlab


11:53am - Roland Harwood from NESTA explored the metaphor of the Social Network as a city. He drew some interesting parallels between the organic growth of a large city and its internet equivalent. Interestingly, Sue Thomas said afterwards that her work looked at social networks compared to nature, rather than urban development. A lack of power sockets and issues with the air-con are, so far, the only dampeners on the conference.

Roland Harwood - Nlab


1:03pm - Andrea Saveri from the Institute for the Future, Palo Alto gave a quick fired talk on the Future of Work. Amplified Individuals was the buzz word going round as Andrea discussed the concept of collaborative work by internet uses. It seems this idea extends well beyond the obvious blogs, YouTubes etc, and can include projects and diverse as collective fantasy games with real world tasks to complete and companies appealing to people to help them solve their technical problems. For me, her ideas really summed up everything that is good about the internet.

Andrea Saveri - Nlab


The next day... - Well, as with last year's conference, my laptop eventually ran out of battery, and, also like last year, there weren't nearly enough sockets to go around. So, blogging sadly had to be put on hold for the day, but now I shall give you a brief run down of the afternoon:

After a lunch spent networking with the other delegates, Ken Thompson from SwarmTeams kicked off the afternoon session by drawing our attention to Swarms. Followingon from Roland Harwood and Andrea Saveri, he looked at teamwork and collaboration in nature and the comparisons with social networks on the internet. He gave a fantastic demonstration in which the delegates used their mobile phones to collectively reply to questions that he texted to us from the internet. The results could then be viewed in real time on the projector screen. Added onto of the blogging, note taking and Twittering, this extra level of communication took those of us with multiple devices running to the very limit of our typing abilities, but it was well worth it.

Ken Thompson - Nlab


Next up, Jim Benson of Modus Cooperandi looked at the practical applications of social networking in a business environment, with some surprising results. He admitted that many of the most common social networking tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, might not be as good for businesses as had been assumed up until this point. This provoked a delegate into arguing the case for social networking via SMS. By the end of the session it was still unclear who had come out of that debate on top.

Jim Benson - Nlab


We went immediately into workshops at this point. The choice this year as excellent, and I had much difficulty in eventually choosing Sean Clarke's session. This was not to be regretted however, as his demonstration of how to integrate many of the popular websites into each other with the use of RSS Feeds was extremely well recieved by all who attended. I came away from the workshop with my head literally buzzing with ideas and plans for improving my own websites.

By the time of the panel session, the fatigue of the day was clearly begging to show among delegates. Nonetheless, a very stimulating question and answer session was enjoyed.

The Panel - Nlab


When Sue Thomas brought the day to a close, my mind was made up that this was an extremely successful Nlab conference and may have even been better than last year's one.

Sue Thomas - Nlab


If you want to read a more detailed blog of the day's events, Jess Laccetti expertly blogged the whole day for the conference website.

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Travelling North

Posted on Wednesday 18th June 2008 at 00:00
Crikey it's nice not being in work!

I'm about an hour away from leaving Bristol and heading up to Leicester for the Nlab Social Networks Conference, being held at DMU tomorrow. It's interesting to me how, in the run up to this technology conference, virtually every new form of communication has been used to keep the information flowing between organisers and delegates. The conference has a website, a mailing list and even a Twitter account!

Unlike last year, where I ended up in no internet hell, this year I'm staying at a hotel that promises to have internet access at all times. For this reason I fully expect to update you all on my adventures later on this evening, although failing that I'll be Live blogging from the conference itself, as of 10am tomorrow morning.

Oh, and at some point I'm going to rant and rave about how much I adore my new iPod Touch. It really is the best thing in the entire world!

Laters!

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Buck Up, Big 3!

Posted on Friday 13th June 2008 at 00:00
Agh! So much for posting every single day. Over a week without a peep out of me :-(

Luckily this time I have an excuse, namely the other woman website, which I talked about the other day. When I started the project I envisaged something quick and simple. All I had to do was create a simple site with no special features, on which I could write about myself for people wishing to know more about me. The entire thing was going to take perhaps 6 hours to build, I thought.

8 hours later and I've just about got the title bar the way I want it. Now, I'm not a web design virgin. Not at all. I've been dabbling on and off for nearly a decade now and as regular readers will know, I built this very site that you are reading right now. But this time I felt that, because of the continuing browser war, which now sees Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari all holding large shares of the market, I'd make my site look good in all of them.

Oh dear.

The problem is as follows: an organisation called the W3C has responsibility for setting the standards that web site coders must follow. They are fairly simple to implement, easy to learn about and, for the most part, very effective. Alas browser coders are a pompous lot, generally speaking, and they all think that they know better. As a result, not one of the Big 3 browsers actually meets the standards entirely, and because of this, they all display web pages in a different way.

Here is my title bar as it appears in Internet Explorer:

The

...and in Firefox:
The

...and again in Safari:
The

You see the differences? That is after 8 hours of making tiny changes to my style sheet, saving it, uploading it and then checking what it looks like in all three browsers.

Am I the only one who thinks Microsoft, Mozilla and Apple need a clip round the ear hole and told to fix it?

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Hotel Amenities

Posted on Wednesday 4th June 2008 at 00:00
Just a quick post today, as time is of the essence.

I've just been looking at hotels in Leicester that I might like to stay in for the Nlabs Social Networks Conference later this month and I'm quite surprised to see that here, in 2008, in Britain, internet access in hotels is still listed on most hotel websites as a 'luxury? amenity.

Luxury?! Most of these hotels aren't even talking about Wi-Fi in the rooms! They are talking about a cable in the lounge that has to be shared between all the guests. How is that luxury? I honestly cannot understand this school of thought at all.

Internet access is not a luxury. You can get internet access for less a month than most people spend on their water bill. If internet access is a luxury then so is a shower in the room. Or a bed. It costs far more to put a bed in each room than it does to provide broadband, but you don't see hotels charging extra for those do you?

I really wish I knew how long we'll have to wait before public places, such as shops, restaurants and hotels get with the programme and start to realise that they are losing business by not joining the 21st Century and providing free internet for all.

Hell, I've even started visiting McDonald's more often when I'm in town, because they have free Wi-Fi, where as Starbucks charge.

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Impulse Purchase

Posted on Tuesday 3rd June 2008 at 00:00
I've just bought myself a second domain name. How very random is that?

About an hour ago I decided, on a whim to Google myself, just to see what would come up and if any of it would relate to me. The results appeared and as I looked through them I realised that there are a lot of Mark Glovers in the world. It seems my name sakes are enjoying professional careers in fields as diverse as campaigns for animal rights, performance engineering for a rail company, authoring academic textbooks and professional photography.

Then, about half way down the page I spotted my nemesis; the Mark Glover who owns markglover.com. I've never actually met this person and I don't actually have a grudge against them, obv, but one of the first things I did when I got my very first internet connection, even before I'd set up an email account or Googled 'porn', was to check and see if I could secure markglover.com as my own website domain name. Much to my annoyance, the domain was taken then and remains taken to this day.

What I didn't see when I looked through those Google results was a listing for markglover.co.uk. On another whim, I checked to see if it was available to buy, and it was. So I did. Ha!

Not entirely sure what I'll do with it yet. Obviously Ignorminious? Misty Mind is staying right where it is. I'm thinking perhaps a site advertising me as a professional person would be a good idea. I don't actually have a career mapped out yet, but I figure that a well developed site with contact details, information on me etc etc would be a useful place to send people when I start networking and applying for jobs in a year or so.

I admit the ideas aren't exactly a well thought out plan at this stage, but domains are so cheap these days that it made sense to secure this one now, rather than letting one of the other, evil Mark Glovers steal it from me. I would not be impressed to find myself stuck with markglover.org.

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How To Jump Start A Blog

Posted on Monday 2nd June 2008 at 00:00
And so, a new week, a new month and a new blog post (admittedly on the second day of the month, as I didn't think about writing one yesterday) and nothing much to talk about, as usual.

This week my hours at work have been cut back, which means that instead of starting at 9, as I have been doing since last September, I now don't start each day until 11. Eventually a combination of tiredness, laziness and a depressive mood will lead me to start sleeping in until half 10ish, but until it does, I thought I'd use the extra two hours in the morning to get back into writing my dear little blog.

As it happens I failed slightly this morning, in that it's now afternoon and I am only just starting this, but that's ok, coz I used my morning to get done lots of really useful, but mostly dull things, so that I now have the afternoon free for writing instead. I love it when a plan comes together.

Recently I've become increasingly envious of those who, despite the ups and downs in their lives, are able to keep blogging at a consistent rate, seemingly forever. Some of the blogs I read even update on specific days of the week and never, it seems, fail to meet their self imposed deadlines.

I'm not like this anymore. Once upon a time I was updating at least once a day every day, but eventually I either lost enthusiasm or was too exhausted to write or simply didn't have anything to say. More than once I've considered sticking up a big sign saying 'That's it folks, I'm all out of stuff to say here. Please enjoy my back catalogue of fantastic musings and ignore any whiney, apologetic posts about not posting from this point onwards!?

In three weeks or so, I'll be attending the NLab Social Networks Conference at De Montfort University in Leicester. It is being organised by the same people who did the Women, Business and Blogging conference that I attended last year. Back then I was slightly ashamed of the infrequency of my blogging, what with it being a technology conference. Wind the clock 12 months on and the situation is decidedly worse. Hopefully, if I can get into the habit again now, I will look like a proper blogger by the time the conference arrives and I show up with my laptop, ready to eagerly take notes/subtly check my emails and chat on Facebook.

They say that the weather is going to be pretty shit this summer, and that, combined with the lack of a garden anywhere near my apartment, should ensure that I find time to do this on a regular basis. If I don't keep updating, can someone please give me a good telling off, so that I start again?

Pretty please?

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