Archive for Technology

Google-beater? Don’t make me laugh!

A handful of ex-Googlies have set up a new search engine which they reckon is going to beat Google.

Hmmm.  Well, I saw this mentioned on BBC News earlier today but didn’t bother checking it out.  Then I saw a thread about it on Telford Live so I thought I’d best give it a whirl seeing as how people are talking about it.

What a sack of cack.

A seach for Telford Live comes up with an image that has no relevance to the website.  Searching for “wonkos world” comes up with some random sites but “wonko’s world” comes up with this place and a couple of images from the sidebar.  The mathematically-calculated “relevant” image isn’t guessed that well and even if it worked it wouldn’t add all that much to the experience.  Certainly not enough to make up for the slow, slow response times and poor search results.

Really, I don’t see the point in Cuil and I don’t see it lasting very long.  It’s not a patch on Google – it’s slow, the search results aren’t very good and the only front-end gimmick Cuil has doesn’t work properly.

Technorati Technorati Tags: ,

Another day, another random prediction

Sometimes it seems like everyone in the IT world thinks they’re a psychic – every other day there’s some headline declaring the imminent death or arrival of something computer related.

This time it’s the turn of the humble mouse.  Not the little rodent that goes squeak squeak, can’t stand cheese and craps in your cereal – the computer mouse, first developed by Xerox and a seemingly inseperable part of the computer system.  But if Gartner is to be believed, the mouse is facing extinction as new gesture and touch technology comes to the fore.  Hmmmmm.

Now, I have a Wii and that uses gesture technology of a sort.  It has a wireless controller and I can point and click at a button or image on the screen and by the miracles of modern technology it knows what I’ve clicked on.  It even knows what angle my hand was at, how far away I am from the TV and if I had the thing turned in my hand by a couple of degrees.  Pretty impressive stuff but the button I’m pointing at with my Wii remote is about 4 inches wide and a couple of inches high and even then I have to give the remote a wiggle to find out which edge of the screen the pointer has disappeared off and then herd it towards the button with my finger poised over the button to click when I veer over it.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the Wii interface (even if it’s a bit Mac-like) and for playing games it’s great but for clicking an icon on a desktop or a link on a webpage?  No, I don’t think so – not unless your desktop icons are the size of a Vista “extra large” picture thumbnail and your web browser is displaying everything in a 128pt font.

Touch is, perhaps, a more viable alternative.  I have a HTC Touch mobile phone and it works well despite the relatively small screen.  Even with my podgy fingers I can press buttons and menu items that are really quite small.  The software controlling the touch screen presumably centres on the middle of the area covered by my finger or thumb and makes the click happen where it figures out I intended to press.  But the monitor on my desktop PC is filthy already with various sets of fingerprints, handprints and sticky sweet residue (the kids use it, not me – honest) and it’s not a touch screen.  I don’t even want to guess how many virulent diseases are living in the crap that my hands, face and pocket leave on the screen of my phone.  How often do you fancy cleaning the shiny screen on your 21″ TFT?

The mouse works well because it’s an extention of your arm when you use it.  Your arm is resting on the desktop when you use it, keeping it stable.  Unless you have severe co-ordination problems (or no arms) you should be able to control a mouse fairly easily without wandering around the screen like you do with the Wii.  And if you have an optical mouse, you don’t even have to worry about sticky balls or dirty mouse mats, let alone a smudgy, fingerprint-covered touchscreen.

I appreciate that Gartner are professional analysts and no doubt the analyst who came up with this prediction is a technology expert.  I may not be an industry insider but I use a computer intensively all day, every day and unless someone comes up with a revolutionary new way for me to move that little arrow around the screen, my mouse will still be on my desk in 50 years time.

Technorati Technorati Tags: , ,

Wii Wii Wii, all the way home

We bought a Nintendo Wii the other day and I strongly recommend one for every household, particularly if there’s a fatty in the household like there is in ours (me :laugh2:).

I’m sitting here typing this with sweat dripping off me (pleasant image, I know) after spending just 10 minutes playing :box: on the Wii.

In addition to the standard sports game that comes with the Wii, we got the Wii Play which comes with more sports-type games; a carnival games game; a hack and slash, shoot-em-up game Triad’s type thing and Rampage.  If you remember the original Rampage (I had it on the Spectrum) then you won’t be disappointed with the Wii version.  There’s something satisfying about biting the end off a bus and tipping the passengers down your throat.

Technorati Technorati Tags: ,

Battle of the Browsers

Looking at the browser stats for Wonko’s World, it seems that the newly released Firefox 3 is proving pretty popular – 124 visitors have used Firefox 3 so far despite the first release candidate being available for only a month.

By way of comparison, only 88 people have visited using Opera since I started using eXTReMe Tracking 6 weeks ago, 199 used AOHell 9 and 216 used Safari.  I also had 4 visits from a Playstation 3.  Which is nice.
I’ve downloaded Firefox 3 to give it a bit of a test drive and although it’s noticeably faster than IE7 and Flock, I don’t think I’ll be switching from Flock.  The good people at Flock have already release their first beta of Flock 2 which is built on Firefox 3.
My advice?  If you’re using Firefox 2 or below then upgrade.  It’s faster and the default interface is a bit more modern and cleaner looking.  If you’re using IE7 then consider swapping – it’s even quicker compared to IE7 and if it’s as reliable as Firefox 2 then it’ll be infinitely more reliable than IE.  If you’re a blogging, social networking or media fiend then use Flock.

firefox.png  flock.png

Technorati Technorati Tags: , ,

Sky HD

Good old Sky, you’ve gotta love ’em.
I introduced a friend to Sky and got a free Sky Plus box for the introduction. I phoned the number on the letter and gave them the details. A couple of months passes and the phone call to sort out the installation hasn’t materialised so I phoned them up.

“The account number you gave for your friend wasn’t correct, either you read it out wrong or someone typed it in wrong”. My friend was reading his account number to me as I was on the phone so it was right but that’s not a problem, mistakes happen. Phone calls don’t though – why did I have to phone them instead of them phoning me?
Anyway, they sent me a letter telling me to phone and order before the 14th so I phoned today and I’ll be Sky Plussed in a few days. The box is free but I’ve had to pay £60 for the installation. I had the option to pay £99 extra and get a HD box instead but there’s no way I’m paying £99 for the box, £60 for the installation and then £10 per month for a handful of HD channels. Not when I can get them for free.

On Monday the BBC and ITV jointly launched Freesat, a free to air digital satellite service. Not only does it have the free to air channels you can get through the aerial but it also has HD channels. Currently it has BBC HD and ITV HD (exclusively). When their exclusivity contract with Sky runs out they will also have Channel 4 and Channel 5 HD. That leaves only a couple of HD channels that you must pay Sky to watch. The only two that spring to mind are Sky One HD and National Geographic HD and I only watch Sky One for the Simpsons and Futurama and they certainly aren’t going to look any better in HD!

So no, I don’t think I’ll be paying £10 per month and £99 for a HD box from Sky for a few channels, most of which I can get for free by paying £120 for a Freesat box. I think Sky will be seeing subscriptions to HD dropping off significantly in the coming months, especially when you consider that the HD box normally costs £300 if you just decide to buy it on a whim rather that through a special offer.

Technorati Technorati Tags: , ,

Campaign for a .ENG domain

I’ve just signed the petition for a .ENG domain courtesy of DotEng.

The rules on top-level domains are being relaxed and this will make a .ENG domain much easier to secure than previously. If the .SCO or .CYM campaigns for Scotland and Wales are successful that will set a precedent for all the home nations.
We have our own sports teams and our own flag. We don’t have our own government yet but that’s only a matter of time. Why not an English domain name?

Click here to sign the petition.


Technorati Technorati Tags: , ,

New Laptop

The insurance company finally paid out on my broken laptop so I’ve finally been able to get a replacement.

It’s a nice bit of kit but it came with Vista, Microsoft’s most controversial operating system so far.  I’ve read and heard good and bad reports of Vista but so far I quite like it.

After a couple of days playing with Vista, here are some pro’s and con’s:


  • It looks nice.  If you’re going to be staring at a computer you want it to look nice and with the Aero theme it’s the best looking version of Windows yet.
  • The sidebar.  I know these have been around for ages and I’ve tried one or two but they don’t compare to one that’s integrated with the operating system and the radio player gadget I found it the dogs danglies.
  • The Windows Switcher.  Pressing Win+Tab instead of Alt+Tab gives you the nice task switcher.  Again, it’s just eye candy but it’s something nice to look at.
  • The “Games” menu.  Vista recognises lots of games and instead of adding them to the start menu it adds them to a nice Games menu which gives you the performance rating for your own machine and the required and recommended ratings for the game.


  • Age of Empires 3 doesn’t work.  It’s quite a recent game and a Microsoft game at that.  Is it too much to ask that a recent Microsoft game works with their latest operating system?
  • Start Menu.  The new start menu sucks ass.  It’s all so confined with scroll bars and if you choose the “classic” start menu you get some antiquated Windows 2000-esque affair.
  • Memory hungry.  Just displaying the Desktop needs about half a gig of RAM.

Technorati Technorati Tags:

Screw Galileo, we need the money ourselves

The British government has announced its intention to shut down England’s radio telescope array, Jodrell Bank.

The Science & Technology Fund is facing an £80m shortfall in its budget which it intends to plug by cutting funding.  So far, £8m of taxpayers money has been spent on the e-Merlin project which is an upgrade to the radio telescope array.  The decision to close Jodrell Bank will also put at risk the decision to site the headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array project in England as we are likely to lose the expertise required to operate the facility when Jodrell Bank is shut down.

As of February, the British government estimated its contribution to the EU’s Galileo spy satellite system at £96.7m.  Galileo is a duplication of the perfectly servicable and free GPS system owned and operated by the US Military.  The private companies involved in the Galileo project have all abandoned it after they realised, at considerable expense, that it could never be made to pay for itself but rather than writing it off as an unjustifiable and unnecessary expense, the EU has instead raided tens of millions of pounds from a slush fund it has built up of money it has taken from member states but not spent to cover the costs.

So which would you prefer your taxes to be spent on?  A European sat-nav system that will cost the taxpayer billions in perpetuity and be used to track your movements around the country and charge you to use the roads that you have already paid for in your taxes or our own radio telescope facilities that provide jobs and income to English people and has helped England to become one of the foremost authorities in radio astronomy?  Tough choice.

Technorati Technorati Tags: , ,

Do you Flock?

I’m a bit of a flip-flopper when it comes to web browsers. Back in the day I swapped between Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator then between Internet Explorer and Firefox.

I swapped to Firefox because it supported tabs and then back to Internet Explorer when version 7 introduced tabs. In the intervening period I dabbled with Safari because it looked nice, it was pretty fast and it supported CSS3. It had some serious bugs though, the two I couldn’t live with were TinyMCE not working and textboxes randomly losing text.

I was browsing the BBC News website last night and read the story about Netscape Navigator officially being discontinued. It had links to other browsers, including Flock which I’ve seen people write about but never tried. I downloaded it last night and set it as my default browser today. It’s great.

It integrates Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Blogger and many other services into the browser. There are too many features to list, you’ll just have to go and download it and check it out for yourself. It’s based on Firefox so it’s pretty robust and better at standards than Internet Explorer. It’s got a bit of a bug in the textbox where it randomly inserts carriage returns but that’s the only bug I’ve found so far. My only complaint is that to use all the features you need a 50″ screen!

Technorati Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Microsoft tries to run before it can walk

Yahoo has rejected a takeover offer of $41bn (nearly £21bn) from Micro$oft saying that it undervalued the company!

Shares in Yahoo closed at $19.18 (about £10) on the 1st February when Micro$oft made their offer and the $41bn offer would have been worth $31 (about £15) per share.  Amazingly, the Wall Street Journal reckons that Yahoo won’t accept less than $40 per share and that Micro$oft will probably pay it.

A combined MSN/Yahoo will put Google back in the position of plucky underdog which can only be a good thing because they’ve been turning corporate lately.  But increasing the dominance of Micro$oft is generally a bad thing for the consumer and, of course, merging MSN and Yahoo reduces consumer choice.

Micro$oft reckons that by merging with Yahoo it can offer a better and cheaper service but Google already offers a better search engine and better free web applications than Yahoo and Micro$oft for nothing.  As painful as it is to admit it, Micro$oft is good at writing software.  Ok, it tends to be bloated and full of features that are useless to most people, not to mention incredibly expensive, but technology would be nowhere near where it is today if it wasn’t for Micro$oft.  They now need to move away from the desktop and look at ways of better supporting remote working but for that they need the communications industry to “grow up”.  Micro$oft are approaching the challenge the wrong way – at this stage they would be better off investing their $40bn in the communications industry to develop the technology that will allow them to deliver their bloated applications into the home over residential internet connections than investing in a company attempting (and failing) to create a market for online content that only a relatively small percentage of the population can fully benefit from.

Technorati Technorati Tags: ,

EU launches further proxy attack on US

Federal Europe is launching yet another investigation into Micro$oft 3 months after concluding their last investigation which resulted in a €500m fine.

The first investigation was into allegations that Micro$oft was shutting out rivals in order to dominate the web market.  They were found guilty in October 2004 and launched an unsuccesful appeal which ended in October 2007.  This latest investigation is into interoperability with rival applications and has been requested by Opera, which is based in Norway, and a European software developers group.

I don’t like the way Micro$oft does business.  I don’t like the way they price their products out of reach of most people then impose restrictive measures on their software to try and stop people from pirating their software.  However, this is a step too far.  No other company is subjected to this kind of treatment.  No other company would be forced to hand over its trade secrets to its rivals.

Technorati Technorati Tags: ,

O2 stocking iPhone

O2 have done a deal with Apple to become exclusive stockists of the iPhone in the UK.

Apple said they wanted to do a deal with the best so they chose O2.  Interesting choice as they have the 3rd largest network in the UK behind Orange and Vodafone – only T-Mobile (formerly One2noOne) and 3 have smaller networks which isn’t exactly a positive thing to measure yourself against.  I had a 3 phone once and it was crap.  Not only was 3’s network crap but when their network was out of range and it roamed onto O2 that was also crap.

Anyway, that’s enough O2 bashing – it’s not O2 that I intend to take the piss out of.

What on earth was going through the minds of the designers of the iPhone?  In all fairness, Apple’s marketing department must be run by a genius because even with the Apple name and the iPod brand to sell the iPhone, it must still have taken some effort.

Imagine the scene in the Apple Cube, Steve Jobs and his product designers are sitting round the boardroom table in their Ikea ergonomic chairs.  They’re probably called köksuk or flángë.  Steve calls the brainstorm to order and dims the lights.  The light switch doesn’t have an on-off switch, you have to press an option button when you turn it on to turn it off.

Jobs: We need a brilliant lphone to dent Microsoft’s dominance of the smartphone market
Flunky: We could put a camera on it so you can take pictures!
Jobs: Every phone in the universe has a camera
Flunky: How about putting Quicktime on it so you can play videos?
Jobs: Every phone on the planet plays video, that’s so last century
Flunky: How about an internet browser? Putting Safari on a phone would be a real selling point!
Jobs: Every phone for the last million years has had an browser on it
Flunky: We could put a 3G internet connection on it so that surfers can get fast internet connections
Jobs: Na, too expensive – stick with 2G
Techy: We’re going to have to sell this thing for $600 just to cover costs
Sales: So, we’re going to have to try and sell a smartphone running Mac OS with no new functionality and it doesn’t even do 3G?
Marketing: We could put an i in front of the name?
Jobs: Genius! Here’s a million shares and a bottle of Vimto to celebrate.

Why do people buy shit like the iPhone?  The iPod was popular, it was ahead of the times, it was a cult product.  Just because the iPhone starts with a little i doesn’t mean it’s going to be great.  it is an inferior product with inferior features and it’s an Apple!  Save your £270 and give Orange a call who will quite happily sign you up on a contract with a proper 3G smartphone running a mobile operating system that’s been in use for more than 12 months – for free!  And guess what?  It will even play music and videos just like your iPod.

Here are some of the complaints about the iPhone from reviewers:

  • The screen is made of glass and is therefore more likely to break if you drop it
  • It can’t send MMS messages (!)
  • It doesn’t support Flash properly on websites
  • It can’t record video
  • It doesn’t work on Vista or 64-bit XP
  • No file manager
  • No songs for ring tones
  • You can’t save documents on it
  • No games
  • It gets hot
  • No 3G support
  • The camera is crap
  • It’s a big phone (they use super-size hand models to make it look smaller in adverts)
  • The touchscreen keyboard is crap
  • You can’t remove the battery (what do you do when it hangs and won’t turn off?)
  • Battery life is crap
  • It doesn’t support any of the iPod add-ons

50mbit Broadband!

ntl:Telewest are currently trialling 50mbit cable broadband and aim to have it released to the mass market early next year.

This morning we got a leaflet from them offering Virigin mobile phone packages (they’ve just bought Virgin) to tie up with the existing phone/tv/broadband we already have.  We’ve only just changed to Orange otherwise I’d have changed the mobile phones as well as they’re offering a good deal.

Anyway, it’s the broadband that interests me.  50mbit!  BT can’t get anywhere near that even if you live 10 yards from the local exchange.

The wonders of modern technology

Just been watching my brother-in-law and his mates in a bar in Prague using their live webcam.

Branson Can’t Lose

Richard Branson has announced a $3bn investment in biofuels in an effort to fight climate change.

The investment will be made through a new venture, Virgin Fuels.  The man is a genius, he can’t lose!

The State of California has just launched a law suit against major car companies over climate change and the oil market is volatile, not to say finite.  Biofuels are a renewable source of energy and can be grown by or for the company that produces it.  Biofuel is cheaper than oil-based products and cleaner to make.  A large percentage of the Virgin empire is transport-related and cheap fuel will improve the profitability of those businesses.  On top of that, I expect that Virgin Fuels will retain the patent on new technologies they develop meaning that they can rake the cash in from selling the technology to other people.

For a dyslexic Noel-Edmonds lookalike he’s not to shabby when it comes to business.

Thanks Defra

Defra have created a wiki for an Environmental Contract.  Wiki’s are a collaborative tool in which web users can contribute to the content and help build up a kind of online encyclopaedia.  For an organisation, such as a government department, there is the option to restrict who can make changes to the wiki in question.  Nobody appears to have told Defra this though and some enterprising individuals have been making some helpful changes.

This page obviously isn’t going to last long so, for posterities sake … click here.

Hat-tip: Devils Kitchen

Someone at Defra has reverted the pages back to their original state but the good news is that the old revisions are preserved by tagging ?revision=### where ### is a number from 139 downwards.  For example:

Adobe Flex

Has anyone tried Adobe Flex yet?

Flex is basically an XML-based language for creating rich Flash applications.  The XML source is compiled, along with any ActionScript included in it, into a binary SWF file which can then be embedded into a web page.

The language is aimed at developers rather than designers and does away with the traditional timeline style of devloping Flash.  I’ve downloaded the SDK and looked at some of the examples and it looks relatively simple to get to grips with.  Hopefully this will see Flash used for something other than ripped-off trashy intro pages to 13 year old script kiddies’ websites.