Problem > Solution

Scenario: We just got some new Dell Latitude 2110 netbooks, to go with our existing set of 8 2100’s.

Existing 2100.

Problem: The new ones ship with high capacity batteries, which are twice as thick. This means they don’t fit in the expensive trolley we have to store and transport them in.

New 2110

Back to back

The holes they have to fit in

Solution: Brute force and sheer ignorance!

GET SOME!

Grind off the little foot nub thing!

Now it fits! Job well done.

Further to my rant at Vector

A while back I had a moan about the Vector campaign for fibre to the home.

I guess I now have to retract some of my vitriol, having read this article today, which contains a very valid point:

In order to participate in the UFB a company that has a majority share in the layer one infrastructure (ducts and cables) can’t provide retail services on that network. This rule – which the Government has adhered to staunchly – is to avoid what’s occurred in the copper world, where Telecom owns the infrastructure and provides ubiquitous retail services.

So yeah, Vector actually can’t sell me anything. Still, they have fibre running past my home, and there are providers on the network already selling services (including our ISP), so I think my base point still stands. Sell me fibre product at a residential price point NOW!

Trip Report: iPod Touch

I finally gave in to iFührer Steve. A small legal issue means I’m taking public transit for the next few months, and I decided I needed some way of entertaining myself for the duration of the hour a day I am spending being bounced and jolted around Auckland.

Music playing was essential, in no way was I going to be subjected to the rantings of the poor and the homeless, nor the modern trend of blaring shitty RnB music from a shitty cellphone speaker. But once suitably cocooned in my headphones away from the world, what then, stare blankly out the window? Be “that guy” staring at attractive female patrons? Read a book?

Previous state of the art reading technology manufacture.

Hahaha. No, this is 2010, there MUST be a better way. Thankfully, Dear Fatherly Leader Steve has led the way to revolution, with the iPod touch.

Note: Stock image, shitty music portrayed does not reflect actual playlist.

What exactly is an iPod Touch? Well, for starters, it’s a device that makes everyone say “oh, you got an iPhone eh?”, to which you sheepishly reply “ummm no actually”. So for starters, it’s NOT an iPhone. It is identical in every way, except it’s not a phone. Nor does it have GPS. It works the same, uses the same apps and looks the same, with the exception of being almost half as thin, and has a shiny metal back plate. You do still get Wifi and Bluetooth, although being a US product, Bluetooth is limited to A2DP for headsets fuck all useful.

I went for the 8gb model, which has an RRP of NZ$349. Already I wish I had more space, but I was being cheap. That’s why I didn’t just get an iPhone, which would be NZ$1149 for the model I want, sans Vodafone contract. I actually think $349 is good value though – sure, it’s hell expensive for an 8gb MP3 player, but an iPod touch does MUCH more than just play MP3’s. Compare it to PDA pricing, and it actually comes out very well indeed, considering how polished the UI is and how many apps are availible.

Apps are what I really want to talk about, and what really sold me on it. As mentioned, I’m not going to cart around an expensive dead tree book all day, that’s just silly in this day and age. So what does my app load look like?

Byline – $5.29

Byline does one thing, and does it well; it syncs to my Google Reader account and offline caches all the articles. It’s the first thing I read once I get on the bus, clearing out as many of my RSS feeds as I can. Works in portrait or landscape mode, provides buttons for each article to Star or Share it, and when you sync again when back in Wifi range, it marks the read articles as read in Google Reader. It also sorts using the folders you have set up in Reader.

The only things I wish it did better are some kind of automated push sync feature and stupid feeds that only show the first paragraph of the article, but that’s not anything that is Bylines fault.

Stanza – Free

Stanza is an ebook reader. There are now plenty of places who will sell you ebooks (not to forget Amazon’s pay service and their Kindle app), and plenty of sources for free books – both public domain, and uhhh, less than legal services. Great app, you can search/purchase books from within the app itself when online, and there is a desktop app that goes with it as well, although I haven’t really used that. I got used to reading on screen a lot quicker than I thought I would, except I can’t read lying in bed with my glasses off like I do with a real book. Also features coverflow mode too, although it’s a bit slow and not as polished as that in the music part of the iPod. Also supports landscape or portrait mode, but I prefer portrait myself. No good for books with illustrations however. Stanza site.

Instapaper – Free or $6.49

I’m using the paid Pro version. Instapaper has three components, the app itself, the Instapaper website where you make an account, and a bookmarklet for your browser. When you come across a long web page you want to read later, you click the Read Later bookmarklet you have on your browser bookmarks toolbar. It magically reformats the page into a readable format, stripping out all the junk, and puts it in your account on the site. When you open the app, it syncs to your account and pulls down the new pages for you to read whenever you like. Advantages of the Pro version are that it automatically syncs when you open it, saving a single button press, but also that it remembers your position on the page you were reading and supports tilt-scrolling. Also, the developer (who was lead developer for Tumblr) seems like good people. Instapaper site.

Plants vs Zombies – $4.19

YOU MUST BUY THIS APP NOW. I’ve actually paid for it twice, once on PC and once now for iPod/iPhone. What seems like a fairly simple tower defence game turns out to be highly addictive and full of irreverent humour and utter cuteness. Possibly the best game in the history of the planet? Maybe. Look out for the Michael Jackson Thriller Zombies, and prepare to lose that level while you crack up laughing. Popcap games RULE.

Logitech TouchMouse – Free

For those of you who have media computers, this is for you. Install the server software (Windows or OSX) on the machine you want to control, and it turns your touchscreen into a full touchpad and keyboard. One glaring downside is that there is no security on the connection, but if you’re happy with that, it’s pretty good.

Remote – Free

Apples own Remote app, is highly polished, looks and works exactly like the iPod music interface, except that via wifi, it will control iTunes on your computer(s). You can even make it direct certain music to certain Airtunes speakers. Neat.

Honourable mentions

Facebook
Google – Also this is less useful if you have a Google Apps account you can turn ActiveSync on for, and Byline is better at Google Reader.
Twitterrific – Seems to be the best and most simple of the various Twitter apps, is definitely way better than Hootsuite. Currently using free version, will probably upgrade to Pro version.

In summary, you can see most of my apps are based around offline usage. This would probably change if I had an iPhone and had access to 3G data coverage. As it is, I’m mostly happy with my purchase, but I would prefer more storage space (even 16gb would be fine) and really, a iPhone would be better. But, also much more expensive. And I’m also already sick of having separate devices. GAH.

An Open Letter to Vector

Dear Vector

I note with interest your fibre to the door campaign, in which you’re aiming to gain public support in a bid for the National governments $1.5b broadband initiative. The simple fact that it raises public awareness about the issue is commendable.

However, on the other hand, it’s also taunting me. You see, me and my housemates are heavy internet users, for both business and pleasure. Currently our monthly bill approaches $200 for our consumer ADSL2 connection, so obviously we’re happy to spend a reasonable amount on our connectivity for a solid, fast, reliable product.

The problem is, right outside our house, within metres in fact, is a manhole cover. This manhole is stamped with the brand United Networks, which is now you guys. There’s even a CityLink manhole across the road as well. So, I know from both that, and your own coverage maps, that sweet sweet fibre is right AT my door already! Awesome! Yes?

No. See, no one will sell me access to it. Oh sure, a few of your partners WILL, if I’m willing to deal with systems set up purely to deal with corporate accounts, and pay a hefty sum in both service charges and hardware, well out of reach of a consumer. Ballpark of $1000/mo upwards plus a potentially hefty install fee for a non-lit building? Yeah, that aint gunna fly.

I just think it makes sense to try and get some residential roll out in the areas you already service, as it can only strengthen your case in trying to get a slice of that sweet government cash money. I know there are both technical and practical hold ups in doing this, but surely you’re going to need a residential test bed soon, right?

Regards

A heavy internet user who wishes to buy some of your products and services.

Guide: Bookmarklets

I’ve been using bookmarklets for some years now, they are supremely handy little tools. What is a bookmarklet you ask? Well, according to Wikipedia:

A bookmarklet is an applet, a small computer application, stored as the URL of a bookmark in a web browser or as a hyperlink on a web page. The term is a portmanteau of the terms bookmark and applet. Whether bookmarklet utilities are stored as bookmarks or hyperlinks, they are designed to add one-click functionality to a browser or web page. When clicked, a bookmarklet performs some function, one of a wide variety such as a search query or data extraction. Usually the applet is a JavaScript program.

What do they look like?

Well that depends – basically, just like any other bookmark on your browser toolbar. You can rename them just like any bookmark, move them around, or, as I have done, use a Firefox plugin to allow me to assign an icon to them, so I can remove the name entirely giving me more toolbar space.

I have, added a folder there called Bookmarklets that does nothing but act as a title for the Bookmarkets section of my toolbar. On the right is a non-icon bookmark – this is what bookmarklets would look like without the plugin mentioned above.

bookmarklet1

What do they do?

Lots of things! Lets explain the ones I use, from left to right:

  • WordPress PressThis – if I’m reading an interesting page I want to share on this blog, simply clicking that bookmarklet pops up a new browser window that opens a new WordPress post on this site. with the article title and link to the article already embedded, ready for me to add anything else. If you’re a WordPress user, you can find this by clicking the Tools menu in your Dashboard.
  • Facebook Share – Pretty much the same as above, but slaps the output on your FaceBook profile instead.
  • Twit This – Pretty much the same as above, but slaps the output on your FaceBook Twitter profile instead.
  • Google Reader – If you use Google Reader for RSS feeds, this one will open the RSS feed of the page you are on in Reader, all ready for you to subscribe to it.
  • ImageShack – opens up a page with all the images on your current page embedded into it. A single click on any of the images rehosts them on ImageShack for you, meaning you don’t have the problem of trying to hotlink images in blog or forum posts.
  • Linked Images – faced with a web server directory listing of images and you don’t want to click on each one to view? This opens them all up fullsize on a page for you to scroll through.
  • Readability – sick of trying to read websites with “hip” and “trendy” designs? Or maybe your eyes just aren’t what they once were. Well, click on this, and it opens your current page in a nice smooth, large font format, with all the guff stripped out.

How do they work?

JavaScript sorcery. In practise? To “install” them is usually a manner of simply dragging a link (from a page like the ones linked above) to your browser bookmark toolbar. To use them, simply click! To “uninstall”, simply right click and delete! It couldn’t be easier!

I use Firefox, is that OK?

Yes!

I use Safari, is that OK?

Yes!

I use Internet Explorer, is that OK?

Yes! With some exceptions, but generally they work fine. You usually can’t drag the link to your Favourites bar, but right clicking and ‘Add to Favourites’ works.

I use Chrome, is that OK?

Yes!

I use Opera, is that OK?

Hurr. Weirdo. Fucked if I know or care. 😛

Pioneer CDJ-2000

Pioneer has announced their latest and greatest, the CDJ-2000.

Highlights are:

  • Plays MP3’s off SD Card, USB, DVD
  • Connects to laptop with Pioneer DJ software, AND works with Serato, Traktor and Ableton, and has MIDI control too
  • Touch sensitive “Needle Skip” function
  • Connect up to 4 CDJ-2000’s via standard network cable and switch.

WANT

Cars to be started by lasers instead of spark plugs

Cars to be started by lasers instead of spark plugs – Telegraph.

This is a few months old, but hey, LASERS!!!!

Scientists at Liverpool University and engineers at car giants Ford have developed a new ignition system which uses focused beams of laser light to ignite the fuel.

The researchers claim the technology is more reliable and efficient than current spark plug technology and will enable cars to start more easily in cold and damp conditions.

It is understood that Ford, the world’s fourth largest car manufacturer, hopes to put the laser ignition system into their top of the range vehicles within the next couple of years before making it more widely available.

“Lasers can be focused and split into multiple beams to give multiple ignition points, which means it can give a far better chance of ignition.”

Upgrade!

Have just switched this site over to WordPress. Please bear with me as I work through any teething issues. As much crap as WordPress gets given, out of the box I’m fairly impressed with the polish. I’ve imported all my old blog posts with no drama so business as usual for the most part.

Except, if you subscribed to my old Blogger blog, you’ll need to dump that and resubscribe to this one, using the appropriate link in the top right there.