Monday, August 21, 2006

Less New Build Space

The DIRN Workshop Has Begun:
Patrik Svensson, the director of Humlab, is talking about digital humanities in his keynote lecture, and how digital media transform the humanities and the social sciences.
Maria Wåhlström Bäcke of Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlskrona is live blogging the Digital Interaction Research Network Workshop at Humlab in Umeå. Director Patrik Svensson's suggestion that "altered spaces might be more interesting and dynamic than some of the newly built and perhaps rather sterile ones built specifically for working with digital technology" is interesting, perhaps primarily because I've always worked in reclaimed spaces, and whenever I've been involved in the development of new spaces the process has been over-complicated by the competing demands of the influential and highly-paid partners that such projects inevitably attract. I don't think it impossible to build excellent digital spaces from scratch, but there's something very appealing about reclaiming and reinterpreting spaces. I've been told that I'm particularly good at thinking about the use of space, and I've been lucky enough to work with colleagues like Michael Priddy who's excellent at planning things like cabling and networking, so maybe I'm biased. I'm with Svensson though; an unwanted existing space will beat a new build in terms of cost, time and convenience anyday. Maybe the constraints of an inherited building are just what you need to be creative, and nothing kills a muse like staring at a blank canvas.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Jelly Bean Woman

Light relief, in the form of a woman made of jelly belly beans. Snapped in Birmingham Selfridges.

Notes on SteveNote

So the Apple WWDC has landed, and the SteveNote had some interesting stuff, unpicked in fascinating thoroughness by many others, elsewhere. A few things that piqued my interest though:
  • iChat is now a proper calendaring solution, since it supports CalDAV in Leopard. That's good news, long overdue. My own efforts to establish a lightweight, usable system for room bookings and staff timetables amongst my University colleagues was definitely stymied by iCal's inability to edit shared calendars (though also by many other things besides), and the in-built resources handling and conflict resolution (if sensibly done) will be a big bonus. We might yet see a useful solution within my department.
  • Rails is now part of the standard Leopard Server install. That's great news for the Rails guys, and for Apple generally as it'll make using the Mac a no-brainer for Rails dev (if indeed it isn't already). It'd be even better to see it included with the dev tools. A lot of development is done on MacBooks Pro or not (and the iBook/PowerBook before them), and this would get Rails into lots of hands. I'm eager to see what can be done with the DashCode/Rails combination. We're going to see a lot of interesting stuff, I can feel it in my bones.. [UPDATE: According to this press release, rather than the 37 Signals announcement, my wish came true and Rails is shipping on the client developer tools too. Yay!]
  • Now that iChat can replace the background for an iChat video, does this mean that motion tracking is built-in (either to the application or at a system level)? Note that they're not using chroma-key to accomplish this, just sensing the pixels that change when a person sits in front of the camera (yes, it's going to look strange when something moves in your room shot - the hands of a clock for instance, or your cat). I look forward to lots of motion-sensing applications. A few might even be useful..
The internal redesign for the Mac Pro is a big deal and definitely indicates the direction of the line. Despite the 'pro' moniker generally being applied to things that aren't, this Mac lives up to its suffix. Accordingly, the cost of the components is higher too (though the base entry machine is affordable), and I wouldn't bet on those drive caddies or that heat-sinked (sunk?) memory becoming cheap anytime soon. The message is clear: This is a workstation-class Mac (not the long-rumoured "gamers' dream mac" or the oft-rendered Cube-on-Steroids), and it both positions the iMac as the clear solution for ordinary people and opens the way for the Mac mini to evolve into a home media-oriented box (with no doubt a stripped down entry/education version). Don't expect to see this line up take shape until Leopard ships though, alongside iLife 07 ("Next Spring" is code for "When Vista's due to ship, though probably won't": I expect a ship date announcement at January's consumer Mac expo).

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Of Leopard Mail and iPhones

Brian Lam at Gizmodo writes:
It's the day before Apple's WWDC, and we're dreaming of what goodies Stevie J. will reveal at the keynote. Last week, O'Grady got his O'Hands all O'ver what looks like details of the next revision of OS X, AKA Leopard. Giz took a look at the long-ish post, and sorted out what we thought were the new operating system's five best features. (All speculation, of course. Please don't sue us, Steve.) Apple Rumors: OS X Leopard's Six Best Spots
Personally I'd be happy if Mail in Leopard gets the ability to connect directly to Apple's .mac through WebDav and web browser protocols. Why do I have to copy and paste outgoing messages from Mail to .mac's hopelessly outdated webmail interface just because my employer (or my WiFi hotspot) is blocking IMAP/POP? This is the kind of reason I pay for .mac (or why I might not cancel it). I'm more than a little intrigued by the rumours of a significantly-beefed iChat: If Leopard is going to deliver a proper Apple VoIP solution (it had better work with Skype) then all of the iPhone rumours might not be related to a GPS handset after all. Here's my prediction then: iPhone as a software product (perhaps rolled into iChat, perhaps something else) and an Apple-branded handset for talking. Initially I'd thought it might be Bluetooth to your Mac (Apple might not want to compete in the low-margin computer handset market, though they do make a Bluetooth mouse); now I'm thinking it'll be a WiFi handset with display and integrated functionality (address book, SMS, maybe iSight) and an upgrade to Airport basestations which turns them into simple VoIP phone hubs. I'm not betting on a WWDC launch (it's a consumer product), though I think we'll see a teaser for the telephony features in iChat. We'll see very soon what WWDC brings. I'm betting that Apple takes a very different line in tackling the phone network operators to the one people expect. It won't be head on, at least in the first instance. Every dealing I have with my phone network convinces me more and more that the answer is simply to bypass them for more and more services. My SkypeIn number, voicemail and the SkypeOut service (along with my very sweet Ipevo USB handset) may not deliver the greatest quality or most reliable calls I've ever heard, but it saved me a fortune in Bangkok last month. While it's true that mobile phone design needs a rethink, the bigger problem is the network. My K610i has a functional Blogger client and a workable web browser, but the damn network doesn't want me to see my blog, because it might not work well on a phone sized screen. Sigh.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Kitchen Garden Cafe

This picture was taken and stitched on the K610i, which gives some indication of just how sophisticated the software in cameraphones is getting. Of course this still is no rival for my Ixus, but it will be interesting to see how Sony's Cybershot phone range begins to stack up. I might try and test the 3.2 megapixel K800i soon just to see how close things are getting. I'm a big fan of dedicated devices, and I can think of many reasons why I'll continue to carry a pocket camera as well as my phone. Still, this has great appeal as a simple blogging tool and more besides, if I can just get it onto a network where Internet access isn't deliberately crippled.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

On train, new phone.

Well my K610i arrived this morning and my initial impressions are good. The integrated blogger support is excellent with the camera software initially creating a new blog but blogger letting you switch posting to any existing site easily, and merging the posts you've already made. The camera seems faster than the Nokia 6280 I've been using (actually, everything seems faster) and the mail client seems more functional. The keys are pretty close together though which makes typing a bit harder for my sausage thumbs, but I'm hoping I'll get accustomed to it. There's a lot to like. On a more negative note the phone isn't unlocked as the ebay merchant claimed, and getting it unlocked today has proved impossible. More on that later. For now I've resorted to a prepay 3 network sim card in order to test it out. This makes testing some of my usual accounts problematic, and means getting used to the new network services at the same time. It's a pity 3 is so behind in offering cheap and flexible Internet access, or I might just have switched over. As it is I'll be trying much harder to get this unlocked tomorrow; I'd hate to have to give up on this phone just because the evil networks don't want us to move around.

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