Just an update

Once upon a time I had the notion that I would post something vaguely interesting or helpful once a month.  While working at Sun that was easy (also making myself blog about my weekly activities for later reference helped), even my final year of uni I pretty much managed it, but I now look back over the last few months and see that I’ve not posted anything really since early December, and before that sometime in October.  

I am still alive!  Still working on the ERTMS project in Machynlleth which is going well and with each new software update the system is getting more and more stable.

Outside of work I am working on some bits in the virtual world of Second Life, a good friend of mine creates objects and I have started writing scripts in the Linden Scripting Language to make his objects more interesting/interactive.

OH!  I’ve got a new iMac!  A sexy 27” beast, equiped with a 3.4GHz Intel i7, 16GB RAM and an AMD Radeon HD 6970M (2GB).  It replaces my three year old Mac Pro which I wasn’t using to its full potential - so if anyone wants a 2009 Mac Pro (2x Intel Xeon 5500, 6GB RAM) let me know!

Right, now I’ve got to work on something interesting for me next post!

Merry Christmas

Just a quick post to wish you all a very Merry Christmas

WebOS 'more open' than Android?

Ars Technica recently published HP’s decision means webOS could end up more open than Android.

The fate of WebOS has had people pondering since HP announced it was going to stop developing WebOS.  It has been suggested that HP should open source WebOS rather than just killing it.  It turns out that that is exactly what they are going to do.

Now this raises an interesting question, could WebOS be more open than Android?  Many of us know that you can download most of the Android source, and that you can build Android and put it on your phone, but it’s not a community driven project, indeed it seems to somewhat shun the community. I seem to recall that when Richard Stallman came to Aberystwyth University, he said something like “Android is not open, but it’s the best we’ve got right now”.

I know a number of people who have rejected the iPhone and the Apple culture because it is extremely closed.  These people have promoted Android as the open alternative. My question to these people who wanted the open option: When HP opens up WebOS, will you all be jumping ship to the truly open source mobile OS?

Do I really agree with Apple's EULAs?

After the death of Steve Jobs Richard Stallman has said some somewhat callous things about Jobs and Apple and how they have us in “digital handcuffs”.

When we purchase a piece of Apple hardware or software, we must accept a EULA before we use it.  It’s pretty standard in the proprietary world to put measures in place to restrict a user’s use of the product. I am pretty confident that hundreds of users click “accept” every day without reading such a license , let alone understanding it.

I have fallen in to this trap too, what “freedoms” am I signing away to Apple?  Over the next few weeks I’m going to sit down and read the EULA for Mac OS X Lion, iTunes, and iOS 5.  Am I really happy with signing these “freedoms” away?

RIP Dennis Ritchie

Co-writer of the C language and co-creator of the UNIX operating system Dennis Ritchie sadly passed away last Saturday.  It seems his death was somewhat overlooked due to the passing of Steve Jobs.

Thanks to Ritchie’s contributions to computing, we have the C language and its derivatives (including Java, C++, Objective-C, JavaScript, and more), and UNIX with its derivatives (including Mac OS X, BSD, Solaris, Linux).

Goodbye, Steve

I sat down at my computer this morning before work, I glanced at my tweets, then at my RSS, I realised what had happened.

Yesterday the world lost a great man, Steve Jobs.

I know that this will be plastered all over the Internet, I know that newspapers already have obituaries written, but I wanted to pay my respects to this great man.

Steve’s keynote speeches were always brilliant, it was these speeches that made me so enthusiastic about Apple products.  I love reading about what he had done in the early days of Apple, watching old videos, etc. I love how the company grew and how he drove it forward.

I will miss that we will no longer have the chance of seeing him at Apple events, on stage or in the crowd.  There will be no more reports of his one word responses to the pleads of customers/developers.

My thoughts go to his family, both at home and at Apple.  Goodbye, steve.


Sherlock is one of my all time favourites.  No, not the stories, the game!

Written by Everett Kaser many moons ago, I first played this classic game on DOS and taught how to play it by my Dad.  At the time it felt fairly hard, and it still catches me out from time to time now!

This is my current “I’ve got five minutes to fill”, or indeed “I’ve got half an hour to fill” game.  I play it on the way home from work, knowing I’ll get about six games out of it.

It’s not visually stunning, but the graphics do give that nostalgic feeling of being back in DOS, it even has some DOS style animations and sounds!

The game can be a bit fiddly, having been originally designed to tap squares with a mouse, but once you’ve got the hang of it it’s fairly easy to do by finger.

I would recommend this game to anyone who likes a quick logic puzzle.  Especially as it’s on the App Store for FREE!

Doodle Sub & Wager

A couple of friends have made some apps for the iPhone/iPod Touch, so I thought I’d quickly plug them :P

First up is Wager by Tom Diggle.  This app is handy for calculating the return and profit of many betting types.

It sports a succinct UI which is both fast and effective and allows for multiple bets to be stored for later reference.

Find it on the App Store for just 69p!

Next we have Doodle Sub by Oliver Foggin.  A simple game, yet so frustrating and highly addictive!

Dive your sub to the depths of the ocean, is there ever an end!?  If there is, I’ve not found it yet!

Once again, this can be found on the App Store for just 69p!

iPad 2

Last weekend it was Faye’s 23rd birthday.  Having asked her previously she had joked about an iPad, so I saved and an iPad she got.  A 32GB, Wi-Fi only iPad2.

I’m impressed with the device, I’ve played with them in the Apple Shop, but having one at home is nice.  Faye has an old G4 iBook, this new device has somewhat elevated the iBook’s duties. The iPad gets used for games, web browsing, email (both through Mail.app for GMail and through Safari for the uni web mail), and for watching 4OD/ITV/BBC iPlayer.

This picture really captures what I think the iPad, or any other tablet, is really good for:

Exciting times for social networking

The social networking world is rather turbulent at the moment, with Google barging in to rival Facebook.

Until recently, Facebook went unrivalled.  From humble beginnings as a networking tool for uni students, it is now to the social networking world as the iPod is to the MP3 player.

Facebook has always had some use, it is not merely for posting on a friends profile, but for organisation.  You can organise events, be reminded of a friends birthday, categorise and tag friends in photos and videos and notes.  It has also added APIs for developers to add content and use to the site.  These organisational features are what make Facebook great to use, but many would argue that Facebook has become something of a monster… Facebook is dominant, it hasn’t needed to care for users.  In the past couple of years we have heard story after story about Facebook reducing the amount of privacy users get.  External developers have turned malicious and targeting unwary users into clicking links that SPAM walls and streams or worse…Other people can’t get off Facebook, insistent that they must water their crops on the latest farming craze, or go into battle with the bloke from a different timezone. Functionally, Facebook is very different to how it was.  A simple PHP page with refreshes when adding/removing content have been replaced with wizzy, and often buggy, dynamic ajax scripting leaving users with odd errors and half loaded pages.

Diaspora* is an open source social networking engine.  It aims to create social networking with privacy being one of the key features. Currently in alpha, I was lucky enough to get an invite several months ago.  It has come on leaps and bounds since I joined back at the end of December, it also uses some wizzy ajax scripting, though it appears less buggy. One of the best features is the aspects.  You can configure as many or as little aspects as you like and add friends into one or more of them.  You can then publish a post into just a selection of aspects, or make it public.  This approach has two major benefits, one is segregation of information with regards to interest (your vegetarian friends may not want to know how you’ve just gutted a deer after your hunting trip), and the second is privacy (you may not want family members to see those drunken, late night posts in freshers week). The problem with Diaspora* is that it is being developed really slowly.  It allows all of the staple features, private messaging, stream, photos, etc. but it lacks the organisational features of Facebook, making it difficult to organise a party or tag people in photos.  It also lacks a rich developer community who can functionality and features to the site in the form of applications.

Google Plus is the latest social network on the scene (closed beta available for use at the end of June). It bears a striking resemblance to Diaspora*, in fact if you have the same friends posting the same thing, you’d be forgiven for forgetting which site you were using! The features are similar too, aspects are replaced by circles which do exactly the same thing.  Photos can be tagged in Google+, private messages can be sent, etc. I’m hopeful that Google+ will become a valid rival to Facebook.  It is clean, fast, and very wizzy (lots of drag and drop type stuff), and it works!  Yes it’s a tad sparse at the moment, but it’s backed by Google who will hopefully run with it.

Ultimately it would be nice to have a single social networking engine upon which Facebook, Google+, Diaspora*, etc. could run on.  You’d have complete integration of services and you’d just have to choose the application you’d access it through, much how email works with the various service providers and applications, it all just works (well, most of the time).