Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spain is amazing


I still want to learn spanish, and more so now as Spain is doing everything right. Today on tree hugger I read this:
Spain Announces Major Energy Saving Plans
This is one of those stories that sounds almost too radical to be true. We’ve already noted that bringing back the 55 mph speed limit could do a lot to reduce gas consumption and cut CO2 emissions, but usually when the idea is discussed we hear from numerous commenters that it would be political suicide. Spain’s government might not agree, as it has apparently just announced a raft of incredibly ambitious measures to help tackle global warming, including cutting the speed limit to 50mph, but that's just the beginning. According to The Guardian, other actions to be undertaken between now and 2014 include handing out 49 million low energy light bulbs, limiting AC use in public buildings to 26C (79F) and introducing a pilot program for the manufacture of 1m electric or hybrid cars! (Of course Spain is already a powerhouse for solar energy projects.) It seems the Spaniards are going to be busy.

One item I am a little confused about, from the Guardian report, is a statement that “Spaniards will be allowed to turn the heating no higher than 21C (70F)” - I am assuming this refers to public buildings in the same way as the regulations regarding AC use – the idea of police tracking down illicit heating parties that reach 22C or above just seems a little too dystopian for my liking.

Another move that is worthy of note is the announcement that airlines will be able to shorten routes by cutting through military airspace – apparently this comes hot on the heels of flight cancellations to Spain by Ryanair and Easyjet in response to high fuel costs.

While there will no doubt be backlash from some quarters regarding the breadth and extent of these moves, I must say this looks an awful lot like what I’ve been waiting for – a national government that is taking oil depletion and global warming as the grave threats they really are.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Charity begins at home

In a trip to a certain international charity HQ today I was surprised to find what a traditional office set up they have.


They are based in London and have a massive, typical, office building to themselves. Admittedly it isn’t one of those posh glass new builds, but I would guess the running costs of the building alone is equal to the output of a fair few donations or charity shops.


The thing that got me thinking most was the paper towels in the loos and the disposable paper cups in the kitchen. Now the charity is one focused on humanitarian efforts, not environmental, so I guess it shouldn’t purplex me that much. I guess I just have an expectation that charities will lead by example right down to the  small details, such as providing glasses and hand dryers to reduce waste.


The building was fully air-conditioned too, which no doubt costs a bundle (although in the middle of summer, in the middle of London, perhaps I shouldn’t be too harsh on them for this). Still, I don’t know why more offices can’t be designed to have windows that open rather than having expensive air-con.


London in general seems to be very non-environmentally friendly (transport system aside). Perhaps I need to scratch beyond he surface, but the largest concentration of people in the UK seems to be the most wasteful, consumer focused and disposable attitude of all.



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

elephant vs mouse

Interesting article on Ecover today.


What is interesting about it is that it's a green product, trying to do good and completely in line with my personal philosophy that the only way we're going to do good is if it can also be profitable.


What's interesting is that everyone likes to focus on the negatives of a nasty polluting organisation, but also, everyone wants to focus on the negatives of a lovely eco brand like ecover (such as 1 non e friendly chemical).


In the article it uses the example of a mouse on an elephants bottom. Let's not focus on the mouse until we've addressed the elephant. And I completely agree. Why is it that journalists have a compulsion to report and we have a compulsion to find interesting negatives, even on those trying to do good? If wind-farms require oil to lubricate the turbines, or a hybrid isn't as efficient as a smaller run around, or if a famous environmentalist takes a ride to a conference on a plane we all focus on the negatives and forget (seemingly) the good.


Perhaps it's because the brands are built on squeaky clean eco lovliness and we feel our trust is violated, or perhaps we just like seeing do gooders mess up?


But the thing I definately like is the elephant.


Ok, we can bitch about hybrids not being as efficent as they could be, the expensive and dangerous chemicals rechargeable batteries use, the inefficicency of certain solar power, etc, etc - but at least someone is trying, and at least it's better than nothing. Of course I guess if there was no consumer demand for eco-perfection then the manufacturers wouldn't strive to improve?

Booking anything

I’ve just booked train tickets online. A word of advice is always think carefully before hand about your journey. Are you travelling in advance? Yes, then you are probably ok to get them delivered to your house. What if you are travelling in a few days? Well you probably don’t want to risk getting them posted. So make sure you do this thinking before pressing accept or face the £10.00 admin charge!


If, like me, you do press accept and then realise your error call them up and make a fuss. They will tell you the tickets are non-refundable, and that there is a £10.00 admin charge for cancellation. Make a fuss, speak to a manager, eventually someone will not have time to speak to you and give you what you want.


Of course, you should then not make the same mistake again.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

new music

So Sky is launching a new download service according to the BBC today (22/07/08)


It sounds great, and Universal are also teaming up with Nokia (working across the road from me) to offer free downloads to nokia users. No doubt Virgin will be following suit shortly.


It’s great to see the music industry being proactive and not bitching about piracy anymore. The fact is, CD’s cost too much and why subscribe or pay when you can get it for free so easily unless there are ways to legally get music for very little?



Sky launches net music service

BSkyB is launching a new music subscription service for internet users in what it claimed is a world first.


The satellite television company, which also offers broadband access, is teaming up with Universal Music to offer digital access to hundreds of thousands of songs for a monthly fee.


Sky said other music industry partners may soon join the service.


The new service will launch late this year but details of subscription prices have not yet been made public.





But BSkyB's chief operating officer Mike Darcy said the aim was to reach the mass market. "Sky already has contact with one in three British homes through our television service," he said, "and we've got plenty of experience of running a subscription model."


The legal music downloads market is currently dominated by Apple's iTunes. Other companies have tried to offer subscription services without making much impact.



But BSkyB and Universal believe a service offering unlimited streamed music plus a set number of downloads for a flat monthly fee will prove attractive.


The music will be free of DRM copy protection software, so it will be available to play on any device, including Apple's iPod.


Pavarotti to Girls Aloud


The music industry has been pressing internet service providers to threaten broadband users who engage in file-sharing with disconnection.


It has been holding out the promise that ISPs can have a stake in the music business if they co-operate with a crackdown on customers who download copyrighted material.


BSkyB did not say specifically whether it now will be sending warnings to broadband customers who engage in file-sharing, but said that part of the aim of the new service is to ensure that "artists are properly rewarded for their creativity."


Lucian Grange, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Group said consumers would welcome a "safe, state-of-the-art service and legal alternative to those services which exploit services without compensation."


Mr Grange said the service would offer everything "from Pavarotti to Girls Aloud" and would be "a lot more appealing than piracy."


Universal has also teamed up with the mobile phone giant Nokia to offer "Comes with Music", a service offering unlimited music to customers who buy a mobile phone.


But Mr Grange said the Nokia partnership was aimed at individuals, whereas the joint venture with BSkyB was targeted at families.





Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2008/07/22 13:03:16 GMT



Solar power

I’m looking after my mums dog at the moment and I keep having to get the bus into town. Public transport, blagh! But I’m only saying that because I live in Bristol and First bus is possibly the worst service in the country.


Of course at the moment it’s been pretty good, but I think that has something to do with the summer holidays. Perhaps if there were more busses in the winter people would use them more?


I keep passing this house with 8 photovoltaic panels and 2 water heating solar panels and all I can think is bravo and how every house should have them. I definitely think every new build house should have one, and why not do something with the roofs of supermarkets and warehouses? Hell, you could even build them over the car parks and then the cars could be nicely sheltered. Wouldn’t that be nice, and ironic that the panels are protecting the problems.




Friday, July 18, 2008

Demise of the mouse

It’s one of my favourite topics and it’s going to have an impact on design. The mouse will be dead soon. We’re going to move towards gesture, voice, touch. While I suspect the mouse and keyboard has a long life in it yet it’s going to become more and more important when specifying the architecture of a site to consider that it won’t be access just from a PC but from a mobile, tv, games console, fridge, car, and many other mediums yet to come. How users interface with those mediums will be wide and varied. Initially i imagine the technologies aren’t going to be as precise as the humble yet proven mouse. Touch for example is fine, except it’s not always 100% spot on, fingers are big and clunky compared to the laser precision cursor.


The future of the keyboard I just don’t know about, it won’t be long I’m sure before it too is a thing of the past but that really depends on the development of voice recognition (which no doubt will have an impact on office design and the role of the secretary). Rather than dictating to a person no doubt people will dictate to a machine. The keyboard already has evolved with some touch sensitive or projected models existing on the market already. And of course there is hand writing recognition widely used in PDA’s (perhaps we’ll see a return to handwriting, though I can’t imagine handwriting to ever be as quick as speech or the typed word less we learn short hand again).


Anyway, my rant was inspired by today’s BBC article 18/07/08:



Say goodbye to the computer mouse

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

It's nearly 40 years old but one leading research company says the days of the computer mouse are numbered.

A Gartner analyst predicts the demise of the computer mouse in the next three to five years.

Taking over will be so called gestural computer mechanisms like touch screens and facial recognition devices.

"The mouse works fine in the desktop environment but for home entertainment or working on a notebook it's over," declared analyst Steve Prentice.

He told BBC News that his prediction is driven by the efforts of consumer electronics firm which are making products with new interactive interfaces inspired by the world of gaming .

"You've got Panasonic showing forward facing video in the home entertainment environment. Instead of using a conventional remote control you hold up your hand and it recognises you have done that," he said.

"It also recognises your face and that you are you and it will display on your TV screen your menu. You can move your hand to move around and select what you want," he added.

"Sony and Canon and other video and photographic manufacturers are using face recognition that recognises your face in real time," he said. "And it recognises even when you smile."

"You even have emotive systems where you can wear a headset and control a computer by simply thinking and that's a device set to hit the market in September."

"This" Mr Prentice said, "is all about using computer power to do things smarter."

Greatly exaggerated

Naturally enough those in the business of making mice are not wholly in agreement that the end is nigh.

"The death of the mouse is greatly exaggerated," said Rory Dooley senior vice president and general manager of Logitech's control devices unit.

Logitech is the world's biggest manufacturer of mice and keyboards and has sold more than 500 million mice over the last 20 years.

"This just proves how important a device the mouse is," said Mr Dooley.

But he also agreed that the number of ways people can interact with a computers were rising and that his own company was manufacturing many of them.

"People have been talking about convergence for years," he said. "Today's TV works as a computer and today's computer works as a TV.

"The devices we use have been modified for our changing lifestyles but it doesn't negate the value of the mouse," Mr Dooley explained.


The mouse was invented by Dr Douglas Engelbart while working for the Stanford Research Institute. He never received any royalties for the invention partly because his patent ran out in 1987 before the PC revolution made the mouse indispensible.

With a 40 year anniversary planned for later in the year, Mr Dooley said Gartner's prediction for the mouse was too gloomy given that the developing world has still to get online.

"The mouse will be even more popular than it is today as a result," he suggested.

"Bringing technology, education and information to these parts of the world will be done by accessing web browsers and doing that in the ways that we are familiar with today and that is using a mouse.

"There are around one billion people online but the world's population is over five billion," he said.


So just how ready are people to wave their hands in the air or make faces at devices with embedded video readers?

Gartner's Mr Prentice says millions are already doing it thanks to machines like Nintendo's Wii and smartphones like the iPhone.

"With the Wii you point and shake and it vibrates back at you so you have a two-way relationship there.

"The new generation of smart phones like the iPhone all now have tilting mechanisms or you can shake the device to do one or more things.

"Even the multi-touch interface is so much more powerful and flexible than in the past allowing you to zoom in, scroll quickly or contract images."

For those who lament the demise of such tried and tested pieces of hardware, Mr Prentice did concede that the keyboard was here to stay for the foreseeable future.

"For all its faults, the keyboard will remain the primary text input device," he said. "Nothing is easily going to replace it. But the idea of a keyboard with a mouse as a control interface is the paradigm that I am talking about breaking down."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/07/17 07:51:31 GMT




Thursday, July 17, 2008


Today I learned how to spell Kyrgyzstan .


I’ve also had my IA hat on doing process mapping and wireframing. I’ve done this before, and don’t have a problem with it however one of the things I’ve noticed is it’s harder to do when you’re doing someone else’s work and trying to adopt their very specific style. I’ve been using the Garrett IA style – which frankly is rubbish

Thursday, July 10, 2008


How clever is the I-Player? It's got to be one of the best pieces of internet kit in the last few years.


It's just so well thought out, it works so well.


They've just released a new version. All the same features as before, but now the full screen doesn't close when you move your mouse and also if you stop a program and then reload the page later on, without any special software, it remembers your position in the program!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I’ve recently split with my partner of 2.5 years.


I’m not going to rant on about that of course, but what I am going to mention is the Web 2.0 aspect of it.


He decided to change their status on Facebook the day after to “single” and I followed later on that day. Since then we’ve both had a flurry of texts, wall posts and messages of people creeping out of the woodwork offering support (and no doubt with intentions of soon to be offering other things). As well as good friends offering support.


I’ve deliberately decided not to change my MSN message to “Happy being single” or something like that as I know it’ll get the wrong attention and send the wrong message.


It’s incredible how the changing of just one little drop down reflects so much emotional angst. How changing that drop down prompts a network of friends to gossip over a number of mediums.


What’s weird to think, assuming we don’t patch things up, is how the next time I change that drop down will probably be at the start of a brand new relationship. How different my emotional state will be at that time!


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Uncomfortable feeling

This is a feeling I've had before; it comes when I'm underworked. Suddenly I notice how busy everyone else is, I realise how hard they are working and I start to get paranoid.

- why am I not working as hard as them right now? Is it because I'm too efficient OR is it because they are phasing me out?

Of course once I ask for more work I feel useful again, but if that work is monkey work I feel less valued.

I'm sure everybody loves me really, but in case they don't I'm going to try and keep busy.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Have I not learnt anything new for several days – I’ve noticed my blog posts have been somewhat lacking lately (except being 10 biggest cocks in advertising, a disappointment when you see it’s actually a comedy sketch).


Yesterday was a yawn fest, I’m just too efficient and had completed all my work by 15:00. Good thing for RSS feeds, a great way to do “research” aka, dossing around.