Friday, June 30

Google Checkout: Uncle Sam stands by the register with his hand out

Google Checkout just went live! But don't go thinking non-US merchants can use it just yet. Looks like you need to supply US-only company ID and tax information.

I'd say PayPal still has significant leverage in the e-conomy of online payments while Google Checkout is only available to US businesses.

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Thursday, June 29

Gliffy: the Writely for Visio users

If you're getting into web-based Web 2.0 tools that replicate the features of Microsoft's evil product suite (such as Writely, Google Spreadsheets, BaseCamp, etc) then you should check out Gliffy.

Gliffy provides many of the flowcharting, UI design and floorplan primitives of Microsoft Visio, but adds the Web 2.0 hosting, sharing and collaboration features you expect in 2006. And for the time-being, it's free to use.

If I'm designing something for an external presentation and polish really counts, then Omnigraffle is still my fave tool by far. Gliffy's graphics are all web-safe only, it has only a few basic fonts, there's no anti-aliasing, and fills and shadows are quite basic. I thought maybe I could use the .PNG export to jazz my diagram up a little in my image editor, but unfortunately the whole diagram is exported as one uneditable object - a disappointment.

But for internal purposes and quick collaboration with workmates, Gliffy will do, especially while it remains free to use.

Getting a JPG of your diagram to post on a blog or webpage is so simple, even a project manager could do it ;-)

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Tuesday, June 27

Call that a foul?

Australians all, should we meet an Italian on the street today, it is our national duty to show them what a real foul is!

Make sure when they grab their leg and grimace, they've got a good reason for doing so!

Monday, June 26

When is a widget not a widget, or even a very good cartoon?

I'm such a big fan of Hugh Macleaod's Gapingvoid cartoons that I have one on the reverse side of one of my business cards. It reads, "First we need to talk, then you need to shut up" which is a great example of Macleaod's style - the sort of thing you often find yourself thinking but rarely saying, much less committing to artwork.

As reported in Techcrunch, you can now add the latest Gapingvoid cartoon to your website with a snippet of Javascript, though it's not really a widget as reported, just a javascript-driven badge, or chiclet.

Unfortunately the current Gapingvoid cartoon is not Hugh's best work, and it might just have been lousy timing, but his current cartoon is (a) not one of his best; and (b) at the expense of the very bloggers he's hoping will use the Gapingvoid badge. Not much hope of that, judging by the reaction in the comments of the Techcrunch article.

Get your own and offend your readers today.

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Tuesday, June 20

3x3 Consumer 2.0 breakfast, 20 June 2006

Exciting this morning to meet some of the other web 2.0 people in Sydney and put some handshakes to people I've known only thru email, IM, blogger and LinkedIn for months.

blurry rachel slattery from slatteryIT
Rachel Slattery,

Rachel Slattery from organised the event and did a great job of the invite list - even the headhunters there were more interesting than usual. The "3x3" format meant that three speakers each had three minutes to talk, followed by three questions from the audience. That doesn't take very long to do, leaving a good 30-40 mins afterwards for people to chat, which is the right sort of balance between presentation and networking time if you ask me.

Unfortunately the nightclub-in-daytime venue was a bit slow with the coffee and a bit dark to get good photos from the cameraphone, as you can see from the following pics.

Nick McNaughton from kicked off with a quick explanation of how his RSS-to-email startup had blossomed after some reportage from influential bloggers spread over the blogging referral networks. Zookoda's grown to an extraordinary Alexa ranking of 11,887, with Alexa reach of 73.5% per million users, almost entirely off the back of blogsposure and Nick's excellent personal networking skills. I played a vanishingly small part in the early coverage for Zookoda and it's exciting to see how well it's going now.
Nick McNaughton,
Nick McNaughton,

Michael Liubinskas of followed with a helpful outline on how his new business had suddenly appeared on the web 2.0 radar screen after a pitch at Demo. Zapr's got a really interesting and unique spin on peer-to-peer file sharing and I think it will go nuts when it comes out of private beta.

Michael Liubinskas,
Michael Liubinskas,

Nik Cubrilovic of Omnidrive, a Web 2.0 veteran who may be able to fund his next startup entirely thru United flyer miles, was up last, talking about how challenging it's been to manage a 'private beta' with more than 10,000 registered users, and about how that has resulted in a complete overhaul of the product based on that user feedback. Nik was questioned, but neatly dodged, some questions about the VC fund-raising experience, but you only need to head to his blog to learn more if you're interested in that.
Nik Cubrilovic,
Nik Cubrilovic,

Again, sorry about the lousy quality of the cameraphone photos, but next 3x3 I'll sit further back and try and get some more light on my subjects. 3x3 seems like a really time-efficient and useful briefing format and I hope I get an invite to the next one without the invitation list growing so long that it's no longer possible to meet and talk with everybody who attends.

GOTYE's 'Like Drawing Blood' is ringing in my ears


I can't remember how I happened across GOTYE's album Like Drawing Blood exactly, but it must have been online. Can't remember the last time I walked into a retail store. The artist has released the album independently online, and although he's had some great reviews and the album has been nominated for an award by TripleJ, most of his exposure has been online to-date.

You need to know about it. If you're a fan of Lemon Jelly, BT or Thievery Corporation, this is for you. Recommended for your listening are the tracks Thanks For Your Time, a bitterly funny comment on telephone customer service, and Learnalilgivinanlovin (I think I've spelled that right) which is a mashup of Phil Collins which makes him not just listenable, but downright funky and danceable again. Almost everything on the album's a potentially successful single, in my humble opintion. GOTYE's writing, multi-musicianship, vocals and production work are top-class.

You can buy the album online from <a href="" target="new" ></a> and he has some samples there and on <a href="" target="new"></a>. Judging by the reviews he's getting on MySpace I think he's probably starting to make good money from track sales too. Awesome to see the artist reaping 100% of the reward.

And in case you're wondering what "GOTYE" means, the only reference I could find was the acronym "Game Of The Year Edition". You pronounce it much like "Gaultier" but I think it's going to be a much more fashionable name than that pretty soon.

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Thursday, June 15

The internet saves you lunch money

I always feel sorry visiting people who work in companies big enough and far enough away from the real world that staff are served lunch in a big canteen, or from mobile vans in the carpark. For me the best part of the day is walking down the road, getting some exercise, escaping my loony workmates for a while, and trying a different place to eat as often as possible.

That's perhaps why I'm less excited than I might be at the news that can save corporate employees up to 48% of the money they pay to buy lunch each day. It's not for me - I'd probably rather get the exercise and spend the 48% extra. But it's probably a great thing for people trapped in corporate campuses at lunchtime.

It's certainly a creative mix of internet, tax planning and online catering delivery. Companies sign up to Ezybite and offer their employees the option to get an Ezybite smartcard. They order lunch online, and the food is delivered by Accor Services (huge catering giant). Delivery guy swipes your card with his reader, and.... ZAP! The money is deducted not from your own bank account, but from your pre-tax salary. That's right, from the money the company was going to pay you in salary but hadn't yet. They call it "salary sacrifice". Add up what you spend on lunch each year, and take 48% of that, and it's quite a bit of money you could save.

What I don't fully understand is the whole fringe benefit implication. I figure it works something like a car lease or mobile phone would - the company ends up paying fringe benefits tax on your sandwich and soup instead of you paying income tax on the money. When that happens, your employer reduces your salary a bit to account for the fringe benefits tax it has to pay to supply you with the benefit. Which is less than what you'd pay in income tax. I think that's how it works.

Sooo, if I have that right (and that's a big "if") it means Ezybite is really only relevant for white collar, high value employees worth salary packaging for. And in this brave new world of Australian workplace "deform", 2 cents an hour and the "race to the bottom" in wages, these sorts of benefits can easily be eroded when it comes time to negotiate the next AWA. Do you want a smaller company car in return for saving half your lunch money, Bob? Or would you rather bring in a packed lunch. Right, I thought so...

Tuesday, June 13

Jigsaw is an evil empire in the making

Jigsaw is a company that will pay you to upload the business contact information of the people you know. If you've ever felt like maybe you don't want people calling you at work to pitch you stuff, this company is your new worst nightmare.

I found some irony in this awful discovery though. Without signing up, Jigsaw wasn't about to let me scroll through all >4,000 contacts it has available from Yahoo! Inc. But it would show me an example business card from its database of Yahoo! employees.

Who else does Jigsaw display but my old mate Arturo Bejar, responsible for leading Yahoo!'s information security department. Arturo's been protecting your Yahoo! login, password, credit card details, stored files and contact information from evil hackers now for many years. I used to call him "paranoid android" but he does a great job of keeping Yahoo! users safe.

Now here's his personal information being displayed on Jigsaw's site, not a victim of hackery, but of social engineering and frictionless online commerce.

Friday, June 9

Music magazines on iTunes? Maybe it'll work, but not yet...

US indie music mag The Fader is one of a small number of specialist magazines starting to make PDFs of their magazines available via RSS feeds in iTunes.

Free music mag on iTunes

Will it work? Well, there's a couple of niggly issues to work out. For starters, limited merchandising space in the iTunes interface mean it's not likely that magazines are going to be actively promoted in iTunes by Apple. Magazines will need to drive their own traffic, which means many magazines will be reluctant to experiment for fear of cannibalising their print subscribers (not that this will actually happen, but it's a publisher's worst, most scary nightmare.)

There's also no navigation to magazines in the current version of iTunes. The PDFs of the mags actually live in the podcast directory as RSS feeds with PDF attachments. To the RSS feed reader element of iTunes, this makes perfect sense, but to Joe Consumer, compute it does not. Magazines would need their own spot in iTunes' left hand side navigation for much repeat traffic to come back.

PDFs, of course, can only be viewed on your Mac or PC, not your iPod, which is where many consumers consume the content they download in iTunes. There's a good chance many people will subscribe to a magazine feed, and then never come back to read issue two because it doesn't appear in their iPod or in their regular playlists.

File size is a problem too. PDF is a great format for high-fidelity rendering and printing, but it's lousy for data compression. I don't actually know how big the PDF file is for the latest issue of The Fader, because the whole time I've been writing this, it's been downloading on iTunes, and 10 minutes later, it's still downloading. Do you get excited about downloading magazines overnight so that you can read them tomorrow? Latest-release movies maybe, but not magazines. Not unless they're top shelf import mags that I'd otherwise have to wait a week or two for the airmail copy to arrive.

In summary, pushing magazines through iTunes is a great example of outside-the-box thinking, but it's not going to change the magazine publishing industry or the iTunes business for some time yet.

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Tuesday, June 6

sydney begins to wash away

sydney begins to wash away
Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
47 more days of non-stop rain and the boat begins to float, you get me? and this was 5pm today Sydney time - spookily dark and ominous sky.

sydney begins to wash away

sydney begins to wash away
Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
47 days of rain to go and then the boat floats. This phot was actually taken at 5.00pm Sydney time, so it's ridiculously dark and ominous out there.

Friday, June 2

Viruses: PCs 14,000, Apple 0... until now...

14,000 viruses on PC...
Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
Yeah, but all the same, i'd be much happier if Apple didn't make that such a cocky selling point in their latest US marketing, including TVCs and online.

It all sounds very smug:

A Mac gets much of this out-of-the-box protection from its open source UNIX heritage. The most critical components of Mac OS X are open for review by a worldwide community of security experts. Their input helps Apple continually make Mac OS X ever more secure. And it’s simple to update a Mac with the latest advances.

Is it me, or is that a red flag to a bull? I's only true while you assume there's more people in the unix community working on security than there are working on cracking security.

An inflammatory statement or two from a computer company wanting to look cooler-than-thou might be all it takes to tip the balance the wrong way.

The other part of the claim is only true if you assume Apple's automated, easy security updates work as intended. My experience: Apple's updates are less problematic than Microsoft's but still hairy tarballs of stuff jammed together out of convenience, scantily-documented and often buggy.

A number of times I've had to roll back an update and wait for a fix to be posted, and I now wait a day or two before installing most of the updates I'm notified of, to watch the forums and see whether the latest patch introduces more problems than it solves. Enough people start doing that, and it leaves a window for hackers to strike and an installed base large enough to make it worth their time.

If you're going to boast, then at least use the language of your current core customer, not that of the lame Windows user - who the hell spells unix "UNIX" anymore? Makes it sound like a HAL9000. It's for people who still capitalise "Internet" and hyphenate "e-mail".

I'd be much more comfortable if Apple kept marketing to me rather than my lame friends, and I'd be even more comfortable if 'the virus thing' was just hinted at quietly, not broadcast like an air-raid klaxon. If that's the pitch, then please, Apple, do a better job of the security updates.

Thursday, June 1

iTunes Bugs Me When: Episode 1

itunes playlist issues.png
Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
iTunes remains the poor cousin in the Apple software family, being the result of third-party software it doesn't quite work as well as it could do in many respects. A couple of issues have been bugging me enough lately for me to blog them. So the first in this series of "iTunes Bugs Me When..." themed posts:

iTunes bugs me when I can't have a playlist that plays back my most recently-added albums, with the tracks in album order (i.e. track 1, then track 2, then track 3, etc.)

Please, correct me if I'm wrong (I often am) but I don't think this can be done.

iTunes' Smart Playlist feature ain't that smart. Although you can combine multiple search criteria, there's only the AND Boolean operator available, and when it comes to sorting, you only get one sort option. Creating a playlist like the one above would require something like:

Select 'Date Added'+'In the last'+''variable'+'days'
Sorted by 'Most recently added' then 'Album name' then 'Track number'

It's not rocket-science, but it's one in a number of user interface failings that really shouldn't be there in the world's leading music software.

Watch me do a DSLAM-dunk!

Just when I was just beginning to look at changing ISPs to try and find one with a higher-speed DSLAM port available at my local exchange, good ole Internode came through with the following email. Make good on this promise, and they keep me as a happy customer:

Dear Internode customer,
This email is to inform you that your ADSL service will be migrated to
an Agile DSLAM port on the phone number 0294608133 starting on 14/06/2006 and
ending on 14/06/2006. Migrations will occur Monday to Friday between 8am
and 7pm and may take Telstra a couple of weeks to complete. Customers will
experience a loss of dial tone and Internet access for a few minutes
while their line is physically cutover. Should either dial tone or
your ADSL access not resume within 30 minutes please contact Internode
Support on 13 NODE (13 66 33).
This migration makes it possible for you to take advantage of our
exciting 'Extreme' speed ADSL plans, offering speeds (based on your
line length and ADSL modem type) of up to 24 Megabits per second.

I don't need 24Mbits but if I can get 8Mbits I'll be deleriously happy.

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