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» Belkin WeMo This kind of looks like the future of home automation.
Belkin WeMo

Nice feature overview here.

X10 is cool but complicated; whereas this looks cool and simple.   |
» Bookcrossing A friend pointed me at Bookcrossing.

Seems like a great way to redistribute your old books and having some fun doing it.

The basic idea - label your old books with a unique identifier, then drop them off wherever you like. Log the 'drop' on the Bookcrossing website for someone to pick up. If they log the collection you can track who and where the book goes. Obviously there are the usual anonymity options and if a non-Bookcrossing person picks up the book they may choose not to join-up (its free, they make money selling accessories like custom labels and bookplates).

Pretty cool.   |
» Mailorder Beer A plug and a bit of a bookmark for myself - Beerstore in NZ does a great job of distributing beer of all kinds delivered to your door.

I've used them a few times now and they're quick and efficient - I even had one delivery with broken bottles which the couriers obviously screwed up and within a couple of days Beerstore had another order on my doorstep no questions asked. Now thats service !   |
» What is a karonkka? A friend of mine recently returned from Finland where he was examining a PhD defence - the process is called a Karonkka.

As well as getting decked out in a full-on tux & tails they actually had ceremonial swords to boot. How cool is that ?

Be sure to read Shauns other posts on the nature of research, patents, science and technology in New Zealand.   |
» TED Talks A friend of mine (cheers Eddie!) pointed me at the excellent TED Talk series.

Subscribe to their RSS feed now.

Theres always something you can set aside 15 minutes of your time to learn about or dump to your mp3 player to listen/watch while you commute.

Recent favourites of mine have included - 'Build a brain in a supercomputer', 'Our buggy moral code', 'What brain damage can point out about our mind', 'Why are babies cute? Why is cake sweet?'   |
» Useful Ways to be Persuasive I realised my Linkdump category hadn't been updated in a looong time so I'll kick start it with this link to some common-sense ways to be persuasive.

As per the link comments in the preamble, its a bit pop-psych but theres some useful stuff to help get your head around how you can get your point of view across to other people.   |
» Because you need to know - Tracking the $700 Billion Bailout It'll be interesting to see if the New York Times keeps this table up to date - Tracking the $700 Billion Bailout.

See which financial institutions receive money and how much they get.   |
» Good Music - Le Pop by Katzenjammer Discovered while reading Popmatters list of Also-rans for 2008 - Katzenjammers 'Le Pop' is one of those joyful albums by a band determined to put a stupid grin on your face at all costs or die trying (cf early Violent Femmes, Crowded House, Pogues).

Check out a couple of videos on YouTube - 'A bar in Amsterdam' and 'Aint no thang'   |
» Good Books - The Shock Doctrine Another excellent read from Naomi Klein - The Shock Doctrine. I have to admit I'm only halfway through this book - mans inhumanity to man makes for tough going - however its pretty much compulsory reading for anyone that wonders how the worlds free market economy's were lead down the track they're currently on.

Essentially what Klein does is posit the idea that free market economies and reforms can only be forced through on the back of an external crisis (sometimes real and sometimes engineered). As a result those people best placed to take advantage of the reforms do extraordinarily well and the vast majority of us end up worse off - with globalisation these disparities keep getting worse as multi-nationals cease to be bound by georgraphy.

As the recent recession and American bank / finance / auto bail-outs have shown - the free market has failed to a certain extent - their own calls for deregulation have bit them on the ass and now they're going cap in hand to the very regulatory bodies they once reviled for assistance.

So even when things go wrong for the wheelers and dealers of the world - they still come out on top.   |
» Good Books - Killing Rommel by Stephen Pressfield Another quick summer read - Killing Rommel is a return to form for Stephen Pressfield - his 'Gates of Fire' was a masterpiece but after that I found 'Tides of War' and 'Last of the Amazons' to be a little dry.

His latest novel tells the tale of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) and their various exploits in the North African campaign, culminating in a mission to track down and kill Rommel.   |

Static Blosxom

Saturday 04 February 2006 at 08:24 am Due to my host experiancing some issues with site spam from insecure weblog setup I've shifted my blosxom based site to statis rendering. The site will be much faster but posts will be further apart as I don't have daytime console access to rerun the static render after each update.

Macworld 2006 Predictions + More

Thursday 05 January 2006 at 8:07 pm Looks like sdf had some kind of spaz attack and reset my html permissions rendering the site unreachable for the last 24 hours or so. Joy. Apple - Ten Things Apple Might Announce at Macworld next week. Interesting - What is your dangerous idea ? The mini-essays from experts in a variety of fields are all pretty good. Particularly good - Richard Dawkins - Lets Stop Beating Basils Car, Diane Halpern - Choosing the sex of one's child, Judith Rich Harris - The idea of zero parental influence, Simon Baron Chogen - A political system based on empathy, Clay Shirkey - Free will is going away. Time to redesign society to take that into account. Following in the same vien is Dave Pollards Dangerous Idea - No one is in control. More Dangerous Ideas from him here at Dave Pollards site. Useful Reference - Network Port Numbers. To counterbalance my weekly Ricky Gervais MP3 fix I'll be trying out these Zencasts - Buddhist teachings. Sounds like a relaxing way to wind down on the bus home. I had to followup on a hilarious Ricky Gervais spiel against the Cambodian Midget Fighting League he refers to in his Gaurdian Podcast (episode 2) - and sure enough its a rather fantastic hoax - Lion Mutilates 42 Midgets in Cambodian Ring-Fight. Music - If you're a Swervedriver fan they have all of their albums available for download as live MP3's. Sound quality is a little tinny but the essence of each song is there. Their best stuff is contained in their early Creation EP's, awesome first and second album. After that they seemed to have band & label problems and I never really bothered tracking them through their third or fourth albums (and eventual split). Presentation tips - Guy Kawasaki (one time Apple Evangelist Extrordinaire) discusses his 10/20/30 rule for Powerpoint. Seems to be sound advice. SOA seems to be a new enterprise buzzword (Service Oriented Applications). An interesting look at how Motorola is deploying SOA's with a great quote from their VP of IT Strategy on how it helps assist business growth & efficiency - "Small agile kills big slow. Big agile is just scarey" I guess having a small team of killer developers that can churn out useful web-apps that can be easily maintained and re-used throughout an organisation means you can make IT an indespensible contributor instead of just being one of those annoying necessities to keep communications ticking along (like a plumber or electrician). I think I've linked to this before but heres a list of Portable Freeware. Just had to link to this Spectator article hosted on a recent South African emigre's site - Kiwis Bleak Moody & Suicidal. Pretty amusing and possibly partly correct. Cool - Belkin have a Wireless USB hub in the works. Nifty - apparently not a new idea but it looks to be becoming more commonplace - Linksys have a wireless access point which is powered via ethernet. No need to string power leads into all sorts of hard to reach places. Paul Thurrot has a couple of interesting glimpses into Microsofts upcoming products - an overview of the new bells and whistles in Office 12 and a look at the new Vista 5270 build. Interesting that he recently purchased a Mac Mini for his wife - I guess if you just want to get things done without having to mess around with the PC the Mac is still the one to get. On a related note Russell Beattie recently switched back to Windows precisely because he wanted to mess around more with his PC - arguing that more cutting edge tech is first available for Windows (which is definitely correct).

ZFS + More (Updated 15/12/05 - primarily silly typos)

Wednesday 14 December 2005 at 10:00 am I've been reading more about Sun's ZFS - theres a great Presentation PDF as well as some discussion on its ability to prevent data corruption at Fatbits and the article it links to here. Theres a flash demo available here. If ZFS really delivers this type of capability with just a bunch of normal disks thats going to make life a whole lot easier for everyone (except the big storage vendors like EMC of course).

I guess one thing ZFS doesn't seem to do (based on my very very cursory research) is the funky data replication / caching that many of the SANS do - eg you can have a caching server that doesn't actually contain a file until its requested and it will then make a local copy of the file available and ensure it stays consistant - very handy if you have a bunch of files you need to make available to a variety of different locations separated by varying speed/quality links. Don't know what happens when a link goes down and a file is updated in two different locations though...

An excellent overview of iSCSI including a real scenario in which storage equipment is chosen based on a particulare requirement. The SAN stuff still sounds way over the top - they also don't seem to acknowledge the crappiness of Exchange storage / clustering either. I guess if you're a big company you can afford to implement $1.5million solutions with $100k yearly maintenance bills. The unseemly haste with which they ditched a $40k NAS box was also pretty interesting. Was it the technology itself that was the problem or again was it about trying to make Exchange mail storage viable ?

Useful Windows admin advice over at The Lazy Admin.

LinuxJournal has some useful SSH Tips.

ArsTechnica has an indepth review of the Nokia 770 Web Tablet.

A Guardian review panning The Lion the With and the Wardrobe on purely non-technical grounds (essentially the book/movie is a thinly vieled religious/chirstian allegory). Note in the same site the movie does get five stars as a film.

On the other hand the reviews for King Kong look pretty encouraging.

Looking at the statcounter referer logs I couldn't help but be amused that this site features on the first page of hits for Spleen of a Dinosuar. I kid you not.

Funny as ever - Jeremy Clarkson reviews the Bugatti Veyron. His reviews are genius - even the one for a Toyota Corolla Verso.

Its also interesting to catch some of my favourite things reviewed recently - the PopMatters has a recent review of the 1993 Mike Leigh film Naked, and Dusted has a recent review of the Tall Dwarfs reissue of Fork Songs/Dogma and Weeville.

The statcounter logs also have a few people looking at Neomem and Keynote - I have to say I'm leaning more towards Keynote as Neomem seems to crap out on some basic thing like search and it doesn't do pictures. Keynote also has its flaws (the encryption doesn't seem to work reliably and it slows to a crawl when you paste images in) but I haven't had it corrupt anything yet. Neomem certainly looks promising and very customisable but I think I'll wait til the next version before trusting it with my data - as per this Neomem forum thread it looks like adding images is high on the to-do list. Sadly it looks like Keynote development has stalled but hopefully Neomem will pick up some of its features (I note Keynote import is also mentioned in the forums).

While searching for good note taking alternatives I stumbled across this guide to Windows note keeping apps. Which pointed to WikiPad which I'm going to have a bit of a play with.

Oddly there seems to be a plethora of decent OS X note taking apps - Notetaker, VoodooPad (from the brilliantly names 'Flying Meat Software'), TinderBox, DevonThink and Notebook. Mostly all commercial though there is a free VoodooPad Lite.

Theres a good Guardian article on the failings of OpenOffice. I just installed OO v. 2 and have to say it feels sluggish and its interface is clunky (certainly under win32). Its understandably a huge project and if you use a Linux/Unix its really the best option in terms of a productivity suite but it still has some issues to work through. Maybe v. 3 will be the killer.

A nice article on setting up an ISP in a box - the box being a Mac Mini. The article is more of an online notebook keeping track of efforts to build something suitable to host family/friends websites and email.

Nifty Myst-like Flash game - Samorost 2.

A little light on content at the moment but Portable Apps will track applications that can be run from a memory stick.

Some nice examples of Rapid Prototyping - eg essentially 3-D printing.

This is all over the interweb - 10 System Admin Truths. He also updates with End User Troubleshooting. All of this stuff is pretty much spot-on.

This slashdot post on Linus discussing KDE vs Gnome would seem to be indicative of the problem with Linux and most open-source software. The majority of these applications and operating systems are designed by and for geeks - very few applications are designed for the joe-average user. In one respect he has a point - dumbing down the interface to the point where it frustrates power-users is annoying. However a power-user is likely to be skilled enough to customise their OS/application to do what they want it to do in the first place and transcend any enforced limitation - average people are in the majority so it makes sense to cater to them first.

More ZFS + Wait theres More (at no extra cost with a free set of steak knives)

Sunday 27 November 2005 at 08:47 am John Siracusa laments the current state of filesystem thinking and suggests that Apple should look into Suns recently open-source'd ZFS. I'd still like to see some concrete examples of what happens if a disk fails under ZFS . . . From the Register - Supercomputer 05. Some nice blade systems on page two of this article. For the real geek - a Ethernet crossover adaptor keyring. Don't forget that you can make yourself a super 5 in 1 cable if you have the patience and inclination. This was all over the web last week - Put your mac to sleep via SMS. Of course you can substitute 'sleep' with almost any scriptable action. A little like this old article on Monitoring your house via your mobile phone. More freeware goodness - 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities. Largely win32 but some multi-platform. Firefox extension - Piggy Bank. Looks kind of interesting. Some of its usefulness looks to be related to being able to query resources that aren't global yet (eg Google Maps doesn't have much additonal data for countries outside of the US, Canada and parts of Europe). The meta-data features do look handy though. Handy for presentations or web-pages - Yotophoto allows you to search and use thousands of royalty free images.

Interesting Links

Sunday 13 November 2005 at 5:42 pm meta-creation_date: 2/3/2005 19:07:24 Learn about how computers work by Building an Apple I Computer. Interesting use for a Palm - use it as a CPU display for your PC with PalmOrb.

Paper Macs + More

Sunday 13 November 2005 at 5:42 pm meta-creation_date: 16/7/2005 21:15:50 For those of us that can't actually afford the real thing here are some Paper Macs. Wiki - TiddlyWiki really seems to be progressing nicely. TiddlyWikiTutorial shows you the basics. All sorts of cool stuff over at Information Aesthetics. Lots of different techniques and technologies for visualising information. Over at Lifehack - Over 100 Quick/Easy Healthy Foods. For the geek who has everything how about a Coffee-cup Mouse.

Brushed Metal + More (Updated 10/09/05)

Friday 09 September 2005 at 1:21 pm Interesting - Watch a chess computer think through its moves.

Another link from Japanese Castles.

Fantastic send-up of Mac OS Interface Transience - Brushed Metal falls from favour. Its interesting that GNOME is moving in the opposite direction by simplifying the interface - Gnome 2.12 even got a Mac OS 9 comparison.

Nice idea - Flat Speaker Leads you can hide in your walls.

If you didn't already know the best groupware platform was updated - Notes 7. Some positive reporting on Notes versus Exchange. While the Outlook client is nicer to use (especially for people who use Office and Outlook/Outlook Express at home) Notes just seems like a much more transparent system in terms of usability and back-end administration.

A nice overview on the benefits of Virtualisation.

Chmox + More (Updated 07/09/05)

Monday 05 September 2005 at 11:55 am I'm sure I've linked to this before but these little places are to cool not to flag again - Tumleweed Houses. These would make great holiday homes.

Another article on getting a tiny Linux distro working under Qemu. Theres a related article at Linux.com about the popularity of small Linux installs.

Interesting Basics of installing / securing PHP and MySQL on OS X. I didn't realise there was a secure php.ini option or a mysql_secure_installation script. They both look like useful options for locking down any LAMP (linux/apache/mysql/php) setup.

Microsofts Compiled Help format is pretty popular as a way of bundling up information. Its always been a hassle to view on other platforms - I used to use xChm via X-windows on my Mac which was fine by X is a pig. Luckily theres now a native viewer for OS X - Chmox. It small, fast and efficient.

Create your own GTD (Getting Things Done) notebook - via the PocketMod Flash app - which prints onto a single A4 page. The GTD meme is cool but sometimes I wonder if like Adrian Mole you spend more time on the System than on actually GTD :-)

BackupPC + More

Saturday 03 September 2005 at 11:31 am Seems very similar to an inhouse application at my old job (Hi Barry!) - BackupPC. Open-source software which backs up data from PC's to a central server.

Video-capture application - WinDV.

Interesting - SSL Enabling Exchange. For secure webmail.

Decisions - Eight techniques to assist you in your decision making process.

Redundant routing via keepalived.

IT Certification + More

Wednesday 31 August 2005 at 11:42 am Plenty of interesting stuff on the web this week -

This is my pet peeve too - Do IT Certifications Matter ?. Actually a half decent slashdot thread for a change. While you do need to study a lot to pass todays Cisco / Sun / Microsoft exams its still an ephemeral type of knowledge (much like most of school and university). Unless you put it into practise on a daily basis most of this information will never get used. Apart from indicating a willingness to apply yourself (you can stick with a mind-numbingly boring program of study so you can definitely work with us) it doesn't truly reflect on anyones ability. I've come to think of IT as more of a trade / craft - more like a builder, electrician or plumber than an engineer or mathematician - as a craft there probably should be some form of apprenticeship to learn whatever you need to learn on the job (perhaps like a medical intern). Erica Ann (who made the slashdot post) has some more information on this from another perspective.

Robert Cringely asks Has Google Peaked ?.

Handy graphics applications - Artrage (win32 & mac) and ImageWell (mac).

This looks like its pretty nifty - from IBM's AlphaWorks R & D people - Real Time File System File Restores (for end-users). In fact this looks potentially very cool. Veritas had a product which did something similar but it just wouldn't scale beyond about 30 people.

Genius - Daniel Dennetts take on Intelligent Design. Daniel C. Dennett co-edited one of my favourite books on the self/consiousness - The Minds I
 

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