Webtorque

Jonathan Baker-Bates, UX and design

Category Archives: Technology

Escaping the Panopticon

by JBB on January 12, 2014, no comments

Regardless of whether you see uncontrollable mass surveillance by both governments and corporations as being a problem, the fact is that it is happening. This raises questions about lots of things in life that previous generations never had to deal with, if only because the extent and methods of surveillance are also largely unknown to […]

The UX Asset Management Challenge

by JBB on June 9, 2013, one comment

When multiple designers work on multiple assets or across multiple projects, it gets very difficult to manage files over time. Which files are the latest versions? Which files are even relevant any more? Which files contain things that may be affected by the contents of other files? Yet with a few short-term exceptions, I have yet […]

The State of Google Glass

by JBB on May 7, 2013, one comment

Now that Google has released Glass to external developers, it’s approaching the point where if you work anywhere near information technology, you are going to need some kind of opinion about whether Glass will be the mass-market success Google wants it to be. Glass deserves a fair assessment, if only because Google has the software muscle and […]

Negroponte and Blockbuster – Pt II

by JBB on January 19, 2013, no comments

A long time ago, I allowed myself a cheeky dig at one of my heroes of old, Nicolas Negroponte. The news this week about Blockbuster UK made me think of him, and how they outlived his prediction by almost a decade. But the prediction business is hard, and if Blockbuster took twice as long to […]

UX and Big Data

by JBB on January 2, 2013, no comments

I’ve been lurking, and recently posting, on Edd Dumbill‘s  Google+ “community” discussion about “big data” since he set it up a few weeks ago (dunno if it’s a public group – G+ is opaque about these things – and I’m too lazy to find out).  Dumbill works for O’Reilly Media, and helped popularise the term “big […]

A Problem With Visualising Data

by JBB on November 28, 2012, no comments

Data visualisation (“dataviz” or more broadly, “infoviz”) appears to serve two main purposes. The first is to show data to people who are not analysts or experts. This is so that they can understand some or all of something that has already been identified in that data. The assumption here is that raw tables, or perhaps bunches of charts […]

Statcounter’s Chrome Story Is Bunk

by JBB on September 21, 2012, no comments

A while ago, I noticed a startling report from Statcounter had fired up interest in the mainstream media about Google Chrome beating Microsoft Internet Explorer in the “browser wars”. Statcounter claimed their research showed most Internet users now using Chrome. The report was echoed far and wide, seemingly by journalists who had no ability (or […]

Is Single-Tasking Just Better?

by JBB on September 20, 2012, no comments

Until iOS came along on Apple’s touch screen devices, having a windowing operating system was de rigour for any sophisticated computing experience. Nobody really asked why – it just seemed good. Have a video playing in one window, your email in another, have your spreadsheet in another one and, I dunno, move them all around […]

The User Experience of Digital Signatures

by JBB on July 29, 2012, one comment

How about that for a boring title? But it’s something that bothers me quite regularly. Why is it that “asymmetric encryption” appears to be fundamentally beyond the understanding of anyone who doesn’t work directly with computers? It’s now become such an issue for me that I’ve written to my MP about it. But before you […]

Dateless Idiocy from Parliament.uk

by JBB on July 5, 2011, 2 comments

If you put something up on the web, you need to give it a date stamp. Not doing so makes you look like Squidoo. So I’m shocked (no, actually, I am quite surprised!) that parliament.uk thinks it’s acceptable to leave them off. Maybe it means they just don’t care about things like accuracy. I guess […]

Where the Internet is Going

by JBB on June 18, 2011, no comments

At the 2011 FOSDEM conference in Brussels on Feb 5, 2011, Eben Moglen gave talk called Why Political Liberty Depends on Software Freedom More Than Ever. “Well we can go back to mesh networking. We’ve got to go back to mesh networking. We’ve got to understand how we can assist people, using the ordinary devices […]

An Internet Mirroring Protocol

by JBB on December 12, 2010, no comments

What I know about Internet protocols can be written on the back of a postage stamp, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering about them. Wikileaks’s recent call for mirrors (link may be down, obviously) got me thinking about the general possibility of a web site mirroring protocol that would make automatic the distribution and […]

The iPad Kindle Thing

by JBB on October 6, 2010, 2 comments

So I bought a Kindle the other day, and have been thinking whether I should have bought an iPad instead. But the more I use the Kindle, the more that seems like an irrelevant question, despite all the debates that rage around it. For example, somebody I know recently mused that “… in some way […]

iPad Prediction(s)

by JBB on January 27, 2010, one comment

Having watched a bit of Steve Jobs’s presentation of the iPad this evening, and having thought about the concept of what is essentially a large iPhone on which you can’t make calls or view Flash, I naturally got to thinking.  Will the iPad be a success like the the iPhone and the iPod  before it?

Putting the ‘P’ Back Into VPN

by JBB on November 22, 2009, 5 comments

It’s now clear that the government wants to control people’s use of the Internet, ostensibly on behalf of the media industry, but more likely in the longer term because (to paraphrase William Burroughs) control always needs more control. For a while now I’ve been thinking whether it might be time to tunnel my Internet traffic […]

On a Yacht in Corfu

by JBB on October 28, 2009, 2 comments

I’m glad I’m not a full-time political activist, and just an armchair one instead, because I’d be beyond cynical by now if I were. As it is, today’s announcement that the UK will adopt the “three strikes” policy to copyright infringement leaves me merely livid. Livid that such a bone-headed, technically illiterate policy is being […]

The Microsoft Way

by JBB on September 24, 2009, 2 comments

I’ve had an unusually frustrating day with Microsoft office, so I’m venting. Coincidentally, here’s a little titbit trawled from the oceans of Slashdot this evening – some anecdotal evidence of the way Microsoft do usability “research”: I’ve participated in usability testing at MSFT (Score:5, Interesting) … as a developer. They basically have labs with one-way […]

Navigating The Three Realms of Privacy

by JBB on August 23, 2009, no comments

I’m not sure if I’ve blogged this idea before or not, but here’s a mini-thread that came up on Slashdot today. It’s about of the ignorance that a lot of people have about data security that I thought illustrated my thoughts quite well: >> You have no reasonable expectation of privacy in your email communication. […]

Phishing with 3-D Secure

by JBB on August 13, 2009, 2 comments

A couple of years ago, I was obliged to find out about the user experience of Verified by Visa and the Mastercard SecureCode systems for inclusion on our site. it was plain to me from the outset that the designers of 3-D Secure (the protocal on which these are based)  had not a clue about […]

Security’s First Mistake

by JBB on July 1, 2009, 4 comments

Earlier last week, the mighty Joshua Kaufman brought my attention to Jakob Nielsen’s latest alertbox about removing masks from password fields. This sparked some interesting debate, and it got me thinking again about passwords and security in general. It has often seemed to me that the first mistake people tend to make in applying security […]

Outlook 2007′s Silent Clipboard Revolution

by JBB on June 26, 2009, no comments

While I’m obviously rather late on the uptake here, I recently (and rather reluctantly) upgraded to Office 2007 on my work laptop. The “ribbon” UI is now sapping my will to live – I had to resort of Googling to work out where the “Links” dialogue had gone in Word, and many functions in Excel […]

Kill the Gateeper

by JBB on June 21, 2009, 5 comments

With the Kindle DX — Amazon’s new large-screen e-reader – the debate about the delivery of information via printed paper compared to that of digital is starting to pick up even more. Earlier, I’d wondered about reasons to prefer dead tree media that weren’t based on just aesthetics. I see that in reviewing the new […]

Google Wave: OpenDoc Redux

by JBB on May 30, 2009, 5 comments

I’m watching the keynote from Google I/O the other day and it’s impressive stuff, technically at least. I can count on the fingers of one hand the occasions I’ve wanted (or needed) to collaborate on the same document in real-time with anyone, but I shall curb my natural cynicism. The mere fact that they are […]

Avoiding Being Watched

by JBB on May 17, 2009, no comments

First, let me say that I have nothing to hide. Well – I wouldn’t want random strangers looking at my bank statements. Medical records would also be private (although I’m sure I’d put a brave face on any public revelations). Where my kids are is also off-limits. I won’t tell you how much tax I […]

BBC iPlayer for Me

by JBB on December 20, 2008, 6 comments

Whoo – it works! Get it here! With the illegal shell script I’d been attempting to use previously (circled) – now it can be told.

Empty Gesture

by JBB on November 17, 2008, 2 comments

Ever since Minority Report brought gesture-based interfaces into the public eye, there are been periodic demonstrations of their evolution in the real world. Here’s where MIT’s John Underkoffler, one of the consultants who were used by the producers of Minority Report, has got to with his g-speak “spatial operating interface” (SOE): As with most of […]

The Opposite of Search?

by JBB on November 14, 2008, 3 comments

Just noticed this old idea dressed up as a new one on TechCrunch. Out of curiosity, but mainly because I thought it might not be as lame as it first looked, I installed the Firefox add-on and it showed me this: “Kickass search results”, eh? Not only is it yet another Alexa clone, but isn’t […]

Prototyping Tools Playoff

by JBB on October 18, 2008, one comment

I must have followed (and contributed to) dozens of conversations about web prototyping tools over the years. Having skimmed through yet another thread on the topic this week (this time on one of the LinkedIn UX groups), pretty much the same pattern repeats itself. Some swear by Visio, others Axure. Some say Fireworks has no […]

MoD Data Loss – Can It Get Any Worse?

by JBB on October 11, 2008, 2 comments

Another day, another… hardly a week goes by without… if I had a fiver for…. I’ve lost count of how… The latest incident of data loss really, really plumbs the depths. I’ve started to pay less attention to the detail of such cases recently because it’s plain they’re simply endemic, human failings and not something […]

Is The Future Really Mystery Meat?

by JBB on August 7, 2008, one comment

I’ve just been watching this video from Adaptive Path in response to Mozilla Lab’s call for participation. The video seems to be more of a PR play for Adaptive Path though, and not a serious attempt at design direction – which is a bit disappointing, but no matter. There are a number of things that […]

Faviki.com: No OpenID – Fail

by JBB on May 29, 2008, one comment

While I yield to no man in my admiration of Tim Rowe, I cannot accept his latest invitation to join him on faviki.com. This is because I have resolved to boycott any new service unless it supports OpenID. I have written to Faviki about this. Let’s see what happens (nothing probably), but in my opinion, […]

The Time Is Now for Local Networks

by JBB on April 29, 2008, 6 comments

My ongoing experience with Tiscali’s appalling broadband offering has made me research the overall broadband industry in the UK. The picture is now becoming alarmingly ugly. Something has to happen to avert a disaster, and that something may be local networks. But before I elaborate on the solution (although not a new idea), let me […]

I Had No Idea

by JBB on April 27, 2008, 2 comments

My god this is awful. The entire weekend my net connection with Tiscali has been so slow that YouTube, podcasts, BBC news and even Gmail have been pretty much unusable. I tried running a speed test just now and it timed out! I now realise why I’ve always found broadband hell stories so boring – […]

The No Net, No TV Challenge

by JBB on April 19, 2008, 4 comments

For the past two weeks, and coincidentally at exactly the same time as my family have been away, I have had no Internet access, and very little TV reception at home. I count myself as a pretty intense Internet user (although I watch very little TV), so was interested to see what would happen without […]

Exiled from Plaxo

by JBB on March 5, 2008, no comments

I ‘ve had a login on Plaxo for about two years now and have only received a couple of invites from people I know, but I’ve had a several in the last couple of months. Maybe it’ll be the next Facebook? I won’t be there if Plaxo does explode though. Plaxo is so far my […]

The Gnome System Menu

by JBB on March 2, 2008, no comments

Having recently upgraded to Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon, I see the system menu hasn’t changed. Other than a couple of minor tweaks to the contents, it’s the same as it was in Feisty Fawn.

Video: How Difficult Can It Get?

by JBB on February 22, 2008, no comments

With various digital media building up on my little hard drive, I thought I’d get one of those media streaming boxes so that I can watch or listen it all in my living room downstairs. TED talks, podcasts of various kinds, camcoder movies – ah lovely. I knew video formats were going to be a […]

We Love Firmware

by JBB on January 24, 2008, one comment

The two things that have most irked me about many devices I’ve owned is response time and shoddy UI. Usually, I assume there’s not much the manufacturer can do about response time, so I’m pretty forgiving on that point. But shoddy UI is another matter. Mobile phone UIs have of course been done to death […]

Monoculture Reloaded

by JBB on November 29, 2007, no comments

I used to think I had a handle on the state of spam and malware. I chuckled at the obfuscated spam content, marvelled at the botnets, and secretly admired the general ingenuity of those skript kidz and their r00tkits. But I didn’t know the half of it until I read this (670K PDF – thanks […]

Banking Innovation

by JBB on November 25, 2007, 3 comments

Well, sort of. The recent sale loss of my data by the Revenue prompted me to change my bank account this weekend. Not that I think I really needed to after the fiasco at HMRC, but I thought some rate tarting was in order. Alliance & Leicester have two interesting things in their online banking […]

Women on the Web

by JBB on August 23, 2007, 2 comments

The female twist to Ofcom’s annual report today on the use of new media is interesting. One view of Internet use that’s always intensely annoyed me is that it’s a solitary medium best suited to male, sociopathic geeks. That may have been true of the web for a brief period between the decline of the […]

The User Experience of Photosynth

by JBB on June 9, 2007, 2 comments

There was a flurry of interest in Microsoft’s Photosynth this week. I’m not sure why, since it’s been around for a while, and was one of the WPF/e showcases at Designertopia last year. The engine for Photosynth is Seadragon (acquired by Microsoft last year I think), explained here in more detail. Photosynth (or at least […]

And Design Shall Start With Observation

by JBB on May 29, 2007, no comments

The project I’ve been working on for the last ten months is now winding down for me, so I’m getting involved with some new stuff. One of these couldn’t be more different from the rather rigorous approaches I’ve been taking since last year. Having attended a “workshop” for this project recently, I can’t help feeling […]

Maximising Profits, Minimising Innovation

by JBB on April 28, 2007, 12 comments

When our grandchildren look back on the late and early 20th century – the dawn age of computing and the information revolution, they will see a company called Microsoft writ large across it. Just how large is difficult to grasp until you compare the profits that Microsoft makes from their nearly unchallenged monopoly. Now compare […]

Lull Before the Storm?

by JBB on April 19, 2007, no comments

Cultural issues and technology are subtle things so I may be barking up the wrong tree, but on my recent trip to Japan, I met some teenagers who told me that they didn’t know much about computers (I’d told them that I design web sites. They were not impressed). Instead, they use their phones for […]

Life with Linux

by JBB on March 25, 2007, 7 comments

There are some posts that no real blog can be complete without, and that is some opinion about Linux. I’ve been using Ubuntu for over a year now and it occurs to me that I should write up something on it. Not that anyone’s asked, but then that’s what blogging is all about really isn’t […]

Will X-Series Light the 3G Touchpaper?

by JBB on November 19, 2006, no comments

It’s not long now until 3 starts selling its X-Series in the UK. Hidden among the usual bundling and partnerships fluff (eBay, Skype, etc.) is a rather quiet, yet potentially cataclysmic feature: X-Series will have flat-rate pricing. So, after the glorious £4.3 billion they spent on their 3G license and the completely predictable failure of […]

Christian Lindholm at UX 2006

by JBB on November 18, 2006, no comments

I’ve been meaning to record my thoughts about seeing Christian Lindholm, head of Yahoo! Mobile (and former Director of Multimedia Applications for the Nokia Ventures) talking about “Mobile Usability” at the Neilsen Norman Group’s User Experience 2006 in London a couple of week ago. Firstly, let me state that I’m not exactly a mobile phone […]

A Great Disturbance in The Force

by JBB on November 2, 2006, no comments

As prophesied, the roll-out of IE7 via Windows Update started today, and as a “High Priority” update no less. Webmasters everywhere now need to be afraid. Well, afraid of those running legitimate copies of Windows, since the wording on the download mentions that it’s for those with “genuine installations” – so WGA will prevent the […]

Cut Lavender

by JBB on September 20, 2006, no comments

Blogging from Flickr – I am so Web 2.0! Not sure why I’d want to blog many photos on Flickr, but you never know. Another benefit of moving to WordPress though: at least I can. Assuming it works – which, if you’re seeing this – it has!

The ‘new link between designer and developer’

by JBB on September 19, 2006, one comment

I’m a bit late with this, but last weekend’s Slashdot discussion of this article on the ZDnet blog was interesting, if somewhat awe-inspiring in so far as some of the opinions expressed about designers (and the software development process in general) were breathtaking stupid. Ever since I got preview of Expression and the wonders of […]

Proof, If Proof Be Needed

by JBB on September 9, 2006, 2 comments

Microsoft’s “fastest patch ever” is interesting: If you really want to see Microsoft scramble to patch a hole in its software, don’t look to vulnerabilities that impact countless Internet Explorer users or give intruders control of thousands of Windows machines. Just crack Redmond’s DRM. One of the more stunning conversations I’ve ever had with a […]

It’s The Spammers – They’re In It With The Aliens!

by JBB on September 8, 2006, one comment

The recent Sunday Times report(s) on keylogging got me thinking about why journos never examine the other dimension of the problem of keyloggers and security compromise: spam. The Times basically took the start of the problem to be a mysterious process of “inadvertently downloading a Trojan” which then installs a keylogger, which then reports all […]

OpenOffice – Wasted Opportunity

by on July 22, 2006, no comments

One of Microsoft Word’s biggest time-wasting functions is auto-numbering. This feature is actually an option which (of course!) is turned on by default. Hardly anyone knows this though, so most people struggle needlessly as auto-numbering rudely kicks in when they start a paragraph with “1.” It then usually refuses to actually number the other lines properly according to what the user wants, or to stop numbering when they want it to; or re-starts not from 1, but from 5 next time, or whatever. The behaviour of auto-numbering is not in fact the bugfest that it appears to be. It’s just follows a logic too complex to actually understand.

So you’d think that the OpenOffice developers would see this, laugh, and either avoid it or implement something better. But no. This is a visual bug report (3.1Mb MPEG) of why the OpenOffice designers should not attempt to follow Microsoft’s “lead” here.

AJAX and Use

by JBB on May 24, 2006, one comment

No blog is complete without some stultifying post about AJAX or some other generally asynchronous thing. As a user of the damn stuff it’s beginning to get me riled, but at the risk of adding more guff to the pile, two points occurred to me with some clarity the other day. Firstly, that whenever somebody mentions AJAX out of any context not bound strictly to discussions of the DOM and that godforsaken XMLHttpRequest object etc. etc. they are really talking about rich Internet applications. Secondly, geeks like me that talk from either side of the end-user divide have their glasses steamed up too much to notice that what I think I’d like to call “non-paged interaction” has in fact been known and loved on the web for years.

When the Internet is Gone

by JBB on April 12, 2006, no comments

Recent events toward something collectively dubbed the “two-tier Internet” by journos have got me thinking about the future of the Internet again. Bear in mind Clay Shirky’s adage that whenever he thinks about what should happen, it prevents him from thinking about what will. The following is therefore not particularly considered against anything and is doubtless rooted in too many pre-conceptions, but what the hell. See what you think.

Forward into the future by 50 years, when those evil ISPs have squeezed the life out of the Internet. The “commercial network” is an oligopoly of walled gardens, each as dull and boring as one another, having long since raced to the bottom for lowest common denominator appeal. Microsoft controls the EyeCandy Platform on which much of it is based, and most have ditched TPC/IP as being too “outdated.” Content is controlled by a handful of media conglomerates that pump out a methadone metronome of sport, celebrity gossip sites and vapid branding vehicles masquerading as “lifestyle portals.” TV, voice communication and the old Internet have now pretty much melded into one on line. Music on the network is largely the preserve of pre-teen pap pop since DRM is built in to the protocols in use – nothing that isn’t part of the ISP’s kickback deals with music publishers is allowed to play. But music (and print) publishers, as we shall see, have all but died a complete death. The artistic desert of the Old Internet is the only place they can ply a trade.

Social Software, Politics and Getting it Right

by JBB on March 8, 2006, no comments

About once every six months or so, somebody on the otherwise excellent SIGIA mailing list posts to say they think there are too many “off topic” posts. This is invariably couched in some painfully lame justification – in this case appealing to us to “respect others” – but more usually assuming the mantle of “the silent majority” or some other hogwash. Naturally, I reminded them in my customarily restrained manner that they were idiots. Nobody took any notice.

i-mode in the UK?

by on March 5, 2006, 2 comments

I suddenly recalled some billboard ads for O2′s i-mode launch last year and wondered: where’s the beef? I’ve been shopping around for a new handset and contract recently and don’t recall a single mention of i-mode on any of the spec sheets I’ve been reading. Maybe I’m not looking in the right price-bracket?

6 Seconds in 1969

by on February 21, 2006, no comments

I’d been only dimly aware of the “Amen Break” drum sample until now, although the sound, if not the rhythm itself is instantly recognisable. However, this video (34Mb MOV) puts the use of the sample into its fascinating social context. Anyone interested in music, popular culture and particularly the effects of recent copyright legislation, should see this. I get spammed by Zero-G every now and again as well. Bastards. Makes me want to download some Squarepusher to up the ante.

Ubuntu Linux for Me

by JBB on December 13, 2005, no comments

Well I finally did it. I had no particular stimulus other than me being on holiday and saw a Slashdot post about a recent review of Linux distros for the desktop. They’d rated Ubuntu highest, so I went along to distrowatch.com and did some reading up. After downloading and burning the (single) ISO, I’m now running it. I always find descriptions of Windows to Linux migrations pretty boring, so I’ll lay off the details about how I got my printer working, etc. but after about 48 hours hacking about, I’ve now got almost everything I need and Windows seems long gone.

AIMBots to Miss

by on November 22, 2005, no comments

When you consider that IRC, chatbots, and whole instant messaging thing is now ten years old or more, then you’d think that AOL would at least get their new “AIMbot” adbot system out of the door without it being so utterly useless. But no.

Licence Agreement Analyser!

by on October 17, 2005, 2 comments

When I was doing some user testing for A Very Large Company That Shall Remain Nameless, one of the questions we were asked to ask of the users was what, if anything, they thought about the fact that there was not one, but three terms of use links on the sign-up page to their service. Not surprisingly, just about all users said they wouldn’t even click on the links, let alone read the contents of them. One user was honest enough to say that even if they did try to read them, they would have neither the stamina nor the capacity to understand them.

Running Vista

by on September 20, 2005, no comments

OK, slightly misleading title: I’m not actually running Vista, I’m thinking whether I’ll ever run it. The other day I tried to think of one thing that WindowsXP Home Edition (the on that came with my new Dell) gives me that Windows98 didn’t have. I don’t consider myself a computer geek, just an interested party – but I could not think of a single thing.

Trying Tor Again

by on September 10, 2005, no comments

Earlier this year I took down the Tor server I was running, mainly because it was hoovering up rather a lot of bandwidth and throttling it down to the trickle that would have been necessary to keep under my bandwidth cap seemed a bit silly. I’ve now set it up again (nickname “Doormouse”) on one of our Hatters servers for the continuing good of all mankind (huzzah!). Wonder at the graph and bask in the glow of pure freedom – or something.

Video, Computers and Shocking Interaction Design

by on July 18, 2005, no comments

I’ve been fiddling with computers recently. It all started when my wife bought a video camera (Sony PC-110) with a DV output. Then I got a Firewire card. Then I tried to burn DVDs of my sister’s wedding. Then I f****ing tore my hair out and gave up.

Science Does Not Remove the Terror of the Gods

by on July 1, 2005, one comment

StumbleUpon is a nice idea and I’ve been using it a bit recently. Its categorisations are a bit too broad to be really useful, but if they hooked it up with some sort of folksonomy system that you could use to refine your profile, then it might get really interesting. Like del.icio.us/ only less… flat.

I was impressed when the “random stumble” button took me to one of my favourite pages on the web, hence the title of this post.

Video

by on June 26, 2005, no comments

I spent most of this afternoon (almost five hours, actually) trying to get 25mins of video footage from my Sony DCR-PC110 DV camera onto a DVD. What a palava. Nero is a sorry mess of an application – so bad you don’t even know what program to launch, let alone how to use what you think you need to use.

Odeon website accessibility now a reality

by on June 20, 2005, 3 comments

You may or may not have been following the Odeon cinema website usability/accessibility saga over the last year or so.

I installed a Greasemonkey script written to improve the site, and it’s pretty interesting. It completely changes the interaction design of the site, and throws in a new feature – a link to the IMDB page for each film – which the original site doesn’t have! This is all completely without the say-so of the site designers. Of course, you can probably count the number of people using this script on the fingers of one hand, but the principle is interesting nonetheless.

Where has all the speed lust gone?

by on June 17, 2005, no comments

When I was in Japan, I set my father-in-law up with an Internet connection. He’d been given some brochures about NTT broadband from his local electrical store. The pricing was just jaw-dropping: a 100Mbit (yes, one hundred megabit) connection, with no usage capping, is £24 a month. Holy cow!

Pirate Spotting

by on June 13, 2005, no comments

Avast! Brian Appleyaaard! The hammy Bible-bashing tech/culture journo we all love to hate came out on Sunday as a shameless raider of intellectual property in his article on the death of TV last weekend:

"...the internet has begun to work as it should. Thanks to broadband, students now routinely download 
the best television shows — at the moment, that means the US hospital comedy Scrubs — over the net and, 
happily, pass them on to me. Video is now at the same stage as audio was when Napster first started. 
Just as MP3 chipped away at the foundations of the record industry, so video downloading is subverting 
television and film.

Back On Line

by on March 20, 2005, no comments

After almost two days off line while we made the changeover from Plusnet, we’re now with Homechoice. It’s TV, phone and broadband down your phone line, so no dishes or cable laying. You get a nice brushed aluminum STB which looks very much like a Mac Mini only it has a large soft blue light on the front – very large. A bit too large. There’s also a disconcerting lag between hitting a button on the remote and the interface responding, which makes you unconsciously puuush the buttons really hard. I find it remarkably difficult to stop doing that as well.

Moving to Homechoice

by on March 6, 2005, 4 comments

We’ve decided to move from our current ADSL provider (PlusNet) to Homechoice, the London-only provider of broadband, TV and telephone packages. They do all this via the little copper wire that runs from the BT telephone exchange to your house – impressive.

Swpat: Define them Out of Existence

by on February 8, 2005, no comments

Now that software patents in Europe have gone back to the drawing board, both sides will now doubtless regroup. I feel that we have a head start though, if for no better reason than the FFII looked like it was fighting an uphill struggle most of the time until the eleventh hour, when at last MEPs saw their point and showed their displeasure at the Commission’s railroading of the issues.

I’d Rather Stick a Drill in My Thumb

by on January 15, 2005, one comment

Standard & Poor’s site is larded up to the eyeballs with JavaScript and Flash, and (surprise!) is a broken wreak of a site because of it. Firefox users can’t sign up for one thing. I mailed them about that, naturally, while the chances of them replying properly are of course zero. At least they show you a warning – and a picture of somebody attacking their thumb with a dentist’s drill. Are their designers trying to tell you something?

Clipboard Thoughts

by on January 5, 2005, one comment

I’ve been too busy with things over the past month to blog much, but I thought I’d make some time to get some (typically) half-formed thoughts down about the clipboard. There are a number of things about the clipboard that I’m interested in, both in terms of HCI, historical influence on things like content management, and various other aspects of this incredibly influential invention (no, really).

Onion Routing

by on January 2, 2005, one comment

From time to time I get a reminder that the future isn’t somewhere you travel to, it’s something you create. As a teenager, my grandfather made a crystal radio set and let people listen to broadcasts from Paris at church fetes (this was before the BBC existed). He must have felt good about that. I feel the same sort of thing about onion routing.

Software Patents – Some Progress

by on December 22, 2004, no comments

It’s not over yet, but it looks like our protests to MPs, the government, my postcard to Theresa Villiers, and then that confab with Lord Sainsbury may have done something. It seems that the Poles have put a spanner in the works for us, and the final decision on patents has been delayed for more thinking.

It’s good that we’ve got some more time, but we have to keep the pressure up. I’m increasingly thinking that this really is an us-and-them situation. The Poles obviously agree, and even Lord Sainsbury seemed to think that maybe the government has it wrong, or has at least been ill-advised by the UKTPO. Some very large interests will be served if the Council of Ministers has their way. Things smell distinctly fishy.

Thunderbird for Me, Firefox for the Family

by on December 16, 2004, no comments

One of the things I did on my holidays was to re-install my computer and get rid of all that junk on it. After about 18 months and it accumulated all manner of cruft and things were crashing. I took the opportunity not only to go to Firefox 1.0 (I’d been using 0.9 before) but to ditch Outlook as well for Thunderbird 1.0, released on the day I re-installed.

Will Darkness Cover the Face of the Earth?

by on December 14, 2004, no comments

After managing to wangle an extra day’s holiday from work after I mixed my dates up, I attended the meeting today on the European Computer Implemented Inventions Directive today at the DTI. Lord Sainsbury of Turville had generously invited all those who had written to their MPs (well, some of them at least) to explain the government’s position on software patents and to allay fears of impending doom.

Ridiculous Ideas Dept.

by on November 30, 2004, no comments

I was playing with Axel this afternoon while we listened to what I used to think was a rather boring album that seems to have grown on me even though I’ve not listened to it for about three years: The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld. I was surprised by how many “rather British” samples there are in it. Churchbells, leather on willow, lawnmowers, that kind of thing. But for some reason I got thinking about what to do with that dusty old PC I have.

An invite from the DTI

by on November 9, 2004, one comment

My banging on about software patents to sundry MPs and ministers has borne fruit in the shape of an invite from the DTI to attend an event organised by them and the Patent Office to present the arguments in favour of proposed EU software patent legislation. The Register has some more details on it.

I’ll see if I can digest the brochure they sent with it, but on first sight, I’m confused about how the “technical effect” will be determined. Better start RSVP-ing as places seem limited.

Open Money

by on October 24, 2004, no comments

The Open Money Project looks interesting (although I wish they’d sort out their navigation). I can’t decide whether they are the seed of a revolution that will tear apart the rules of commerce as we know it, or just a geeky fad.

Still, I’ve promoted it to my “stop” button above as it’s potentially a Rather Big Thing.

Where did my Google ads go?

by on October 24, 2004, no comments

“Banner blindness” notwithstanding, I seem to have lost my Google ads from this blog. Not that I can be bothered to find out why (no messages on the Adsense account pages that I can see that might explain). I was earning about 10p a month off them.

The Developer’s Lot

by on October 20, 2004, no comments

I’ve been reading some technical specifications for parts of a client’s web site that we are re-designing. I’ve read (and probably written) some really dire specifications in my time, but these are worse than even I’m used to seeing. Have a read of this clip, randomly sliced to my email this afternoon (specifics removed to protect the guilty):

iPod Mini Out-of-Box Experience

by on October 12, 2004, 2 comments

We took a test at school once to find our what kind of career we might be suited for. When my results came through I went to the careers advisor’s office to be told that he thought “printing and packaging” would be my best bet. At the age of seventeen, I thought that sounded suicidally boring and swore I would never show any interest in such things ever. And so it has been until yesterday, when a colleague had a new iPod mini delivered to work.

Ditched Internet Explorer, Outlook is Next

by on October 7, 2004, no comments

Despite being keen on free software, I’ve been using Microsoft Internet Explorer for years out of sheer laziness. But about six months ago, the weight of evidence against using this flabbergastingly insecure web browser drove me to install Firefox, and I’ve been using that fine ever since.

Drupal is beginning to lose its shine

by on October 4, 2004, one comment

I’m getting itchy to try out another blogging system. Drupal is really more of a content management system than a blog, and I’m not using even half of the bells and whistles at all. It’s also quite – urgh – difficult in places but it’s been fun to explore it. Maybe something like Blosxom would be better? But will I ever find the time to do a move? Perhaps I should concentrate on migrating bakerbates.com to CSS instead…

Managing Content Another Way

by on September 28, 2004, 3 comments

Lawd – I is churnin’ it out today!

Why is content not treated in the same way as page designs and HTML?

On most projects, one of the primary deliverables is a set of HTML “templates” to be integrated at some point into a CMS. The CMS then uses these templates to render content loaded into it. This represents a transition from an initial set of page designs (usually developed with a graphics package) into a format (HTML) generally suitable for “decomposition” in some way.

Polemic

by JBB on September 28, 2004, no comments

There’s been an upsurge in deep thinking about development process at work over the last few days, and I’ve been in somewhat expansive mood.

Mobile technology good, network and accessories bad

by on September 25, 2004, no comments

Having recently bought a Sony Ericsson T610 on a deal from BT Mobile (and no, that’s not O2), I’ve been reflecting on the fact that while the phone itself is pretty good (if seemingly designed by somebody left-handed), the peripheral stuff like support, billing, accessories and general “off-handset” features, are appallingly bad.

WARNING: The following post is probably very, very tedious.

Firefox: you learn a new thing every day

by on September 13, 2004, no comments

I just had one of those Really Nice User Interface moments.

I’ve been getting into tabbed browsing with Firefox, usually right-clicking links and choosing “Open Link In New Tab.” But after a while you want to re-cycle tabs as it gets a bit cluttered spawning new ones, and shutting down old ones can be a pain.

So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just drag the link to the tab I want it to load it in?”

And guess what? You can! Ahh, it’s sooo nice when that sort of thing happens.

Is that a chip your shoulder?

by on September 11, 2004, one comment

I remember 1995. One of the things I particularly remember was having a conversation with a journalist who really, really hated the idea of the Internet. What the hell would happen to quality journalism if any old Joe could set up a website and start ranting?

If You Leave An Idea Hanging Around…

by on September 8, 2004, no comments

True story: somebody told me once they’d been looking at a site called “Flash Your Rack.” They said it was a bit like “Hot Or Not” but “raunchier.” I thought they meant effects (or perhaps server) racks. After all, I’ve seen some really impressive racks in Telehouse: twenty Enterprise 450′s divided by blue routers look cool, particularly if they have well-managed cable tidies with them and lots of flashing lights.

But no. He meant tits.

Nevertheless, I thought it might be a goer creating a site like that. And now I see somebody has!

uk-design List On a Roll

by on August 18, 2004, one comment

There have been some cracking threads on the Chinwag uk-design list over the last couple of weeks. I say that because not only am I participating in my usual “you’re all stupid” kinda way, but there are some really excellent people coming out of the woodwork. For example, the celebrated Nico Macdonald, who (I like to think) I have been putting on the spot in a gentlemanly fashion about his spatial interface musings, etc. Here’s peek:

Shorts

by on August 16, 2004, no comments

I note that Google indexes Flash (I’m probably the last to know this), which is interesting. I wonder how long it will take Googlerank to treat Flash movies in the same way as text, PDF and those other formats it indexes as well?

Networks, Economics and Culture

by on August 14, 2004, no comments

Being in an expansive mood this Saturday morning, and having received the latest from Clay Shirky on his “Networks, Economics and Culture” (NEC) mailing list, I’m trying to gather my thoughts around what’s going on (from as high a level as my little mind can get).

A cheap shot at Nicholas

by on July 23, 2004, 4 comments

I was waiting for Axel to have a pee yesterday before he went to bed, and was idly thumbing through my standard-issue-for-new media-nutters copy of Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital.

It’s been a while since I read the book, but I remember it being thin on actual predictions (and therefore slightly disappointing), but I suddenly saw one, on page 173. He must have been pretty confident about it too, since he (almost) names a date:

I bumped into nanotech the other day

by on July 15, 2004, no comments

I’ve been hearing about nanotechnology for a while, but for some reason was never motivated enough to find out much about it. Far future stuff… solution looking for problem… blah blah.

But a random post on Slashdot the other day caught my eye. The poster was saying that once molecular nanotechnology and “nanoengineering” take off, then the nature of matter as we know it will fundamentally change – with massive socio-economic consequences. The details were sketchy, So I did a bit of Googling.