Thursday, May 31

TiVo coming for Australia! Be still my beating heart!

Oh, what a day! Google announces Cogs and Maps Mashups, Apple releases iTunes 7.2 with a DRM-free music catalogue, and now the news that Seven Media Group is finally going to introduce some real competition in the Australian DVR market with the fabled and marvellous TiVo in 2008.

There's no ad-skip button, presumably a concession in return for being able to count on the other networks' participation in FreeTV's coming electronic program guide. But what the heck, the FF button will do just fine.

Yes, sure, we'll be watching the ads, and no doubt some of the marketing viruses will still get in... those that are able to withstand 16x playback!
THE Seven Media Group is taking on pay-TV group Foxtel's dominance of the digital video recorder market with a new alliance to introduce the TiVo digital recorder to Australia by 2008, even though it enables faster forwarding of ads.

Seven Media Group, a joint venture between the Seven Network and US private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, is teaming with the Nasdaq-listed DVR group TiVo in a move it hopes will revolutionise free-to-air TV.

Bridget Godwin, head of policy and regulatory affairs at the Seven Network, said the free-to-air TV industry supported an industry-wide EPG and concerns that Nine or Ten would not participate were moot given the participation of the industry body, FreeTV.

The service does not have an ad-skip component, is copy-protected and will be able to update its software when required through downloads.

 blog it

Wednesday, May 30

New Google Maps feature: massive privacy invasion

Only in the US is there a geek market large enough to have even the faintest
hope of making a profit out of serving people 3-D photo maps, though I remain sceptical that Google can ever make this pay. Not that "make it pay" is a common goal for most Google development teams.

In my testing, I found that flying around the streets of San Francisco was a little bit nausea-inducing much of the time; either spinning out of control with injudicious mouse movements or getting completely lost by the time I'd navigated the intersection. Even those with an unshakeable internal compass (who presumably don't need maps like the rest of us anyway) may be slightly creeped-out by flying through a frozen moment in time, like a scene from Twilight Zone - people, vehicles and objects frozen forever in time (or at least
until the next update of the database).

The fun folks from Immersive Media have crews of drones (presumably associate producers) in white vans kitted with 360-degree photo cameras, slowly crawling through every major intersection in the US, building a navigable database of images that can be overlaid (presumably at great expense) on mapping data that Google has licensed from Sanborn and NAVTEQ (at less expense, since it's legacy data.)

I expect it'll be a matter of hours before people are blogging about all the weird sh*t they've discovered while zooming in on all the people caught on street corners.

Drug dealers prospecting, crimes in progress, lovers soon to become ex-, partners cheating on other partners, businessmen captured with the opposition in mid-betrayal, an eventually, no doubt, a chubby middle-aged guy who dies of a heart attack crossing the street shortly after the Immersive Media van trundles past, leaving as his last legacy on this mortal coil a blurry, poorly-exposed shot of him juggling an over-full briefcase, an extra-tall latte and that last
fatal cigarette on the way to an office never reached. A mourning wife bookmarking the URL sent by a web-savvy nephew in the weeks after the funeral, returning again and again to that haphazard moment, never closing the browser or even allowing the screensaver to kick in for fear that when she returns, it will be gone. Then one day, of course, it will be gone; deleted as randomly as it was captured by another refresh from another trundling white van.

But hey; it's not all bad news. It can't be long before someone hacks together something that lets you add speech bubbles to the photos and share them with other Google Maps users!

Noodling around with Garageband

Yes, finally I got around to trying Garageband, the music studio-in-a-box software that is part of the iLife suite that came free with my Mac.

It's times like this I feel like the Apple TV ads are not hyperbole - you really can do more with a Mac. Garageband isn't enough to turn me into the next Phil Spector but with just my Macbook and my firewire webcam mic I sound better than I do in the shower.

Warning: you don't have to click 'play' if you don't enjoy the sound of a talentless man singing a capella...

Monday, May 28

Great new hybrid Mini

I really, really want one of these! I actually don't even care what the performance is like - if it has mileage that high I could drive to Perth and back without refueling.
clipped from

BMW says its new Euro Mini D diesel will see the high side of 72.4 mpg, by way of its efficient oil burner paired with hybrid-like technologies. Those include brake-regeneration, which uses an intelligent alternator controller that detaches the generator draw from the engine on acceleration and uses engine spool-down on deceleration to recharge the battery. It also includes (on manual-transmission cars) a stop-start function that kills and restarts the engine rather than idle in neutral.


blog it

Geek relationships: sharing user accounts

Great cartoon from [url:]Wellington Grey[/url] about that moment we all know and fear: sharing our computer with our loved one.
 blog it

Friday, May 25

Canon Pixma MP600R: drama of the good kind

Hey, is this thing meant to glow like that?...

Unfortunately experience teaches us to expect drama of the bad kind when installing a new multi-function printer on a home network. But the new Canon Pixma MP600R I installed tonight completely blew me away with some drama of the positive kind, and I'm still smiling from the memory.

After all, it wasn't until I brought home my HP PSC-2210 that I discovered Mac network drivers hadn't yet shipped and that I'd have to search high and low for compatible open-source drivers that would work. And it wasn't until I tried to scan for the first time that I discovered that was one of the many features the PSC-2210 only offered over a USB connection. And it wasn't until the power supply failed just out of warranty that I discovered HP's appalling policy of not offering service for out-of-warranty inkjet devices in Australia, its terrible policy of not making spare parts available for inkjet products to third-party repairers, and its shameful policy of not offering recycling for printer products for home and small business customers. (HP, I hope you get buried in a landslide of your own dead printer products.)

Talk about drama of the bad kind! Not so with the Canon Pixma MP600R... so far, it's been all drama of the good kind.

What's wrong? Sceptical that a multi-function printer could be dramatic? How's this: when I turned it on for the first time and flipped up the bright, clear colour LCD, the printer popped open its own paper tray during the power-up.

Surprised? I was. But not nearly so surprised as when I discovered the individual ink cartridges light up with a warm red glow when you've plugged them in correctly (or, according to the manual, a bright orange if you get it wrong.)

Holy self-destruct-sequence-on-the-Nostromo-batman! Plugging each of the cartridges in one-by-one was like something from Mission Impossible or Star Wars, more like re-enabling the tractor beams on the Death Star than installing a mere printer. Cool!

The MP600R doesn't fax like the HP used to, but the only thing non-recyclable in the entire box was the foam packing inserts - all the other plastics and tape were recyclable. And it scans over the network, over wifi, to a Mac, with Canon Mac OSX drivers.


Wednesday, May 23

How to be simple, and why

I was invited to present some findings to the management team of a business this morning, and gave the group one memorable story to take away.

A process they'd been pinning the business on since 2002 had grown so weedy with neglect that it now takes 47 steps to complete. But wait...

In the course of those steps there are four points at which, if you skip a step or make a mistake, your work is lost and you must start again.

During the process you need to have five programs open, plus at least two instances of Internet Explorer (one browser-based tool won't work properly with Firefox) You also need to use at least one of four Word macros.

During the process, you use a browser interface that includes features nobody knows how to use, features that aren't enabled, and other features that don't work.

There is even an error message that pops up towards the end of the process which is incorrect, and can be safely ignored... as long as you don't get into the habit of ignoring any other error messages.

There are two people who spend much of their working day repeating this process, up to ten times each, per day. Imagine what it must be like to be one of those people!

The Laws Of Simplicity is an awesome book in these situations.

(Tip of that hat to Scott)

Tuesday, May 22

Great VW R32 ad

This ad is so evocative of the sensation of driving alone at night. If it had a few quick turns slightly over the speed limit on motorway entrances and roundabouts, it'd be me.
clipped from
 blog it

Monday, May 21

David Hicks home at last, but let's not stop campaigning

A friend of my workmate Ant, Katie Wood works for Amnesty International. She's written a brilliant op ed for the ABC on what it means now that David Hicks has been returned to Australia.
Sadly it's not yet time to pull down my "Bring David Hicks Home" sign. Instead I need to change it to "Give Hicks The Justice He Deserves". Couldn't have said it better myself Katie...
clipped from

Protecting our human security and protecting human rights are inherently linked. We live in a time where governments are using fear as a political tool – fear of the hordes of asylum seekers, fear of those who are different, fear of the other. The threat of terrorism is real and must be addressed by governments, but, the world does not become a safer place when human rights – such as freedom from torture – are no longer sacrosanct, and when the right to a fair trial can be compromised in the name of security.

For five years David Hicks was denied his basic human rights. The majority of Australians were horrified that it had taken this long for him to receive a "fair go". The Australian Government was indifferent.

 blog it

Wednesday, May 16

My AppleTV reviewette on

[16:17] goonker: how's your apple tv treating you? i don't recall any gushing blog posts

[16:17] bigyahu: yeah i've been a little busy and it was a little unclear for a while whether i loved it or not. decision is in: i love it
[16:18] bigyahu: initial disappointment was: you can only sync one mac with the appletv's HD. you can stream from up to five other macs, but streaming sucks
[16:18] bigyahu: - got to have those macs open and running itunes..
[16:19] bigyahu: - got to have dot n wifi which for me would require buying new basestation and 2x new macs
[16:19] bigyahu: can't see why it couldnt let you assign some appletv storage to one itunes account and the rest to another. i can visualise the nice little slider
[16:20] bigyahu: had some initial hiccups with syncing from my mac, cause not really clear[16:20] bigyahu: but thats settled down now
[16:21] bigyahu: had some MAJOR issues with hookup, because it needs DVi or HDMI and the TV in our house is connected to the cabinet via component, because the cabinet is further away from the TV than the max. DVi or HDMI cable length 18mths ago when the house was built
[16:21] bigyahu: no accessible wallspace to run new cable
[16:22] bigyahu: so installer guy wanted to run a new ducted cable on the outside wall of the house all the way around three walls
[16:22] bigyahu: would have sucked visually!!!
[16:24] bigyahu: managed to talk him out of it and he put the appletv in another cupboard underneath the TV. so now i have one a/v component not in the main cabinet with all the rest of my stuff, which means the appleTV's on a different input source (all the other devices input to the TV on the AV source for simplicity)
[16:24] bigyahu: and it needed a separate IR receiver added, so on the TV now there are three little red blinky-blinky reactions every time i use the programmable remote

[16:24] goonker: wow, sounds like a complicated toy

[16:25] bigyahu: yeah, as always, it's easier if it's a greenfields install!

[16:26] goonker: is there much content avail for appletv? or do you encode your own?

[16:27] bigyahu: both
[16:28] bigyahu: got one of those usb tv twin digital tuner doodads that records free to air programs using the EPG
[16:29] bigyahu: the software that comes with the doodad gives you the option to automatically encode for video ipod and/or appletv
[16:29] bigyahu: so, if only the icetv EPG was accurate and reliable, i think it would be time to chuck out the Sony HD recorder

Jamming blocks mobile calls, lowers IQs around US president

Saw this story in Australian IT and had to laugh - what's less well known about the jamming equipment used to block terrorist mobile phones when George Bush is in town is that it also appears to block most higher brain functions in an area the size of a football field.

At least, that's how it looks whenever I see Bush on TV.
Mobiles blocked for Bush visit
MOBILE phone calls in Sydney's CBD will be blocked by a sophisticated counter-terrorism measure to prevent bomb attacks during US President George W Bush's September APEC visit.

It is expected mobile phone calls will drop out in an area the size of a football field as the helicopter passes overhead.

The technology was first used by the US president when Mr Bush attended the APEC summit in Pusan, South Korea, in 2005.

 blog it

Friday, May 11

bad habits die hard!

dumb habits die hard!
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

I saw this new notice on the kitchen noticeboard this morning. What was this person thinking?

Just in case you're the only News Corp employee without an email account and so didn't get the email memo about making the company carbon-neutral by 2010, I'm going to print the memo out on virginal white paper in glorious full colour and then pin it on the kitchen noticeboard. I'm prepared to print it out as many times as I have to in order to save the environment from people like me.

...or thoughts to that effect.

Dear [name], I see you're on LinkedIn

I'm on LinkedIn too... what are the odds?

Imagine if, by opening my invitation to reconnect you had unknowingly activated a stealth-code-thingy (stop me if i'm being too technical) that would bring you bad luck if you didn't accept my invitation to reconnect and then forward it to six others in the next seven days...

Imagine if I was only doing this because the stealth-code-thingy had struck me eight days ago and this morning I had noticed that my PVR hadn't recorded the last two minutes of the season finale of, like, Grey's Anatomy and now I was engaged in a frantic attempt to stave off my doom...

I've got to stop now, I'm scaring myself. But please write soon...

Technorati Tags: ,

Thursday, May 10

News goes from chopping down trees to carbon-neutral

Well, bugger me! (that's an exclamation in surprise, not an invitation.)

Waiting in my company email inbox this morning was an email from News Ltd Chairman and CEO John Hartigan, addressed to all employees, and putting a personal and local spin on an announcement overnight from Rupert Murdoch that News Corp and all its subsidiaries (including News Ltd and my own lil would be carbon-neutral by 2010.

It boggles the mind to consider the commitment required to turn around a business as vast as News Corp in such a dramatic fashion in such a short period of time. Sure, in Australia, News Ltd started recycling newspapers, ink and even the aluminium printing plates it uses about a decade ago. But to take the entire operations of such a diverse international media empire and commit to making them carbon-neutral within the next 2 1/2 years is going to either require significant operational changes, a massive investment in carbon credits, or more likely, both.

As part of the announcement, Hartigan's email invited employees to complete an online survey into our current concerns about climate change, whether we were already taking steps in our lifestyle to minimize our carbon impact, and whether we'd be interested in adopting various possible initiatives the company might introduce for employees, including organising rebates for alternative energy in the home, car pooling networks, and incentives for making savings in the workplace. There was even a chance to win a Solio portable solar charger to encourage us to do the survey.

The rest of the announcement was full of strongly-worded commitments to change, and a range of practical steps that employees and business units could take right now to start making a difference.

It's very exciting to see sort of leadership from a company that got its start chopping down bazillions of trees and turning them into newspapers. Looks like Rupert and I agree on something after all!
clipped from

The Earth’s temperature is expected to increase by 3°C  this century which may lead to more extreme temperatures including heat waves, new wind patterns, worsening drought in some countries with higher rainfall in others, melting glaciers and rising sea levels.

While debate continues about the extent of climate change consequences and possible solutions, there is little doubt that our society, environment and economy will all be impacted by the changing climate.

There is no reason not to give the plant the benefit of the doubt, and act now to reduce our carbon emissions.

An average Australian household recycling old newspapers for a year saves greenhouse emissions and enough electricity to power a 3 bedroom house for 5 days.

 blog it

Wednesday, May 9

"HP" short for "hurl printer?"

My HP PSC-2210 inkjet multifunction blew a power-supply the other day. On the phone, a nice Indian lady apparently speaking via a transpacific water pipe from Putmionholdajab tried to convince me that HP couldn't service it because it was out of warranty.

I patronisingly assumed she knew about as much about HP Australia's service policies as she does about Victoria Bitter, and started ringing around to find an after-market service centre who could source the parts and perform the repairs.

But I was wrong, and Indira was correct. Not only will HP not repair any inkjet device once its out of warranty, but it won't supply spare parts for them to third-party service companies.

So, for want of a $10 spare power supply, my $500 multifunction, including literally hundreds of finely-manufactured electronic and mechanical parts, must now be recycled.

No worries, I told myself: I'm sure HP Australia is a good corporate citizen and offers a recycling service. Well, guess what? Wrong again. HP only offers toner cartridge recycling for consumer customers. Hardware recycling - for PCs and printers - is the exclusive domain of its corporate customers.

This appears to be because HP insists on popping around to collect it from you, and so it'll only pick up equipment in amounts of a pallet load, or greater. Puh-LEASE! Tell me where the nearest frickin' recycling centre is, and I'll take it there myself!

Meanwhile, everyone I complain to assures me that the prices of printers have come down so much in the intervening time that I can probably buy a new one for $200. Well, yes, that's true, but how is that possible? By HP making short-term lower-price-focused decisions in its manufacturing and service systems, that's how.

There's a digital photography revolution underway right now generating huge revenue for printer manufacturers, but just watch the landfill debt grow as our council tips are gradually filled with cheap, disposable colour printers that can't or won't be repaired or recycled by the manufacturer.

It all makes a sick joke of HP's public policy on recycling, clipped below.

I'm off to see if I can find a more expensive printer manufacturer that sells a product that can be serviced for the lifetime of the parts within it. And if I pass an HP office on my way there, I may well toss this massive waste of energy and resources through their front door, with a colour, duplexed, resized and cropped angry scrawl taped to the top of it!
clipped from

Q.  Why does HP offer this service?

A.  HP is committed to operating in an environmentally responsible manner. The HP Planet Partners Programme is one way to reduce the environmental impact of HP products, e.g. by reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfill. It is an opportunity for our customers to join HP's recycling efforts.
Because our customers want it, our communities expect it, and our employees value it, HP maintains a strong commitment to environmentally sound business practices. We want our customers to feel assured that they can buy HP products and know that they can recycle them when the units have reached their end of life. This programme is part of HP's total customer experience in offering a complete life-cycle solution to our customers.
 blog it

Friday, May 4

Reminder: why we need scientists

Something funny for Friday...

And you thought you just weren't doing it right

Scientists: masturbation not as good as sex

The levels of prolactin in the blood of subjects who committed an act of self-pollution after watching grumble flicks were just one fifth of those who had had actual sex in the lab. Still, either way, nice work if you can get it.

 powered by clipmarksblog it

Nooo! Pandora closes to international users

My favouritest online music service, the ad-free, great-taste-in-grown-up-music, eclectic, Mac-compatible and beautifully-interfaced Pandora, has been forced to block international users because of dumb-ass US music industry licensing constraints.

I was using Pandora this morning, and then this afternoon, it was turned off. At least I was there for the end. And it could be worse; I could have also shelled-out cash for one of those living-room music streaming boxes that integrated with Pandora, in which case I'd now have a very expensive paperweight.

Poor Pandora must now negotiate on a per-label, per-country basis for the overseas rights to each artist they want to broadcast.

It's terrible news for Australian fans because our access to Pandora will surely be restored after Canada, Europe, and most of Asia. In other words, sometime in the year 3000 when we're all taking flying saucers to work, dressing in one-piece aluminium suits, and eating meals in pill form.

Doesn't matter - I will still want my Pandora back!
clipped from

We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for most listeners located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

powered by clipmarksblog it

Thursday, May 3

Digg says, "bury me with my users"

Digg's Kevin Rose decides: together, we fall!

Digg has reversed an earlier decision and will now allow users to post codes used for cracking the HD DVD copy protection. The decision almost guarantees legal action from the copyright holders that could bankrupt the business, which is by far the most dynamic and popular news and culture reference for the Web 2.0 generation.

In a digg (post) from Digg founder Kevin Rose, he explains the company has decided that its first and only loyalty is to its users. That's the kind of decision only a privately-owned company can afford to make, and highlights one of the fundamental differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.

Web 1.0 companies used venture capital to get to the point that they could realise their value in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) - selling shares in the company on a stock exchange (most commonly NASDAQ.) That made the owners of Web 1.0 companies worth millions in paper overnight, but also made them responsible to shareholders and at risk of hostile takeover. Organised shareholders caring only for the short-to-medium value of their shares would never stand by and allow Kevin Rose to risk it all to make a point. And destroying shareholder value by making such a decision would leave the company at risk of a hostile takeover as the market reacted to the news.

VC-backed firms like Digg aren't immune to investor pressure, of course. Digg's backers, including VC firms Greylock Ventures and Omidyar Network, must be sweating bullets and melting phone lines trying to make sure they understand and approve of Rose's decisions on this issue before he announces them to customers and the industry.

Unless Digg makes pulls another 180, the future of Digg probably includes a big shoot-out at the Supreme Court Corral with the federal government, DVD manufacturers and media industry. Talk about David and Goliath! I can only guess that Rose feels like he has no choice in this decision: if he buckles to the industry and removes copyrighted material from the site, he loses because his audience will choose a competitor to post their news on; but if he keeps his audience and keeps his business alive for long enough in the battle against Goliath, perhaps Goliath will realise that this is a fight that it will never win. Once Digg goes down, another Digg will take its place, and encrypting copyrighted media will never stop people cracking it.

Buy content through ScooptWords