Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

Closing the blog

I’ve decided to close this blog down, it will be ‘read only’ for a short while, and then it will disappear.

All good things must come to an end, and the original aim of the blog, to discuss my work in two academic institutions has long-since diverged.  It’s been a good two and a half years though, and I’ve enjoyed the commitment of regular writing.

Please feel free to follow my Twitter feed, my home page will point to Twitter instead.

I’m sure I’m not cured of the ‘blogging’ bug, but any reincarnation will be more personal, and more anonymous than this has been.

Forty-four thousand hits as I hit ‘send’ on this post – not too shabby at all.

Bye folks!




It’s took a while, but at last I’ve got a sold sign on the house that I’m buying.  Still a way to go, but at least I’m getting there.

Very excited.

Greenacre Farm

A really good evening, at an organic farm in Shropshire.  Again, I forgot my camera, but camera phone did a fair job.  Thanks to Box Fresh Organics for the opportunity, and Mark Lea for showing us around.







The Power of Twitter

I know, there’s a lot of hype over Twitter. This isn’t helped by research published today which shows that 90% of the content is generated by only 10% of the users – it makes a change from the 80/20 rule I guess anyhow.

But can I provide two examples in the last 24 hours which may persuade the most skeptical of you that there’s ‘something’ in this Twitter thing.

First example, a casual ‘tweet’ by me that I had finally received confirmation of my holiday payment was posted yesterday.  An astute businesswoman in the island we’re going to picked up on this, and half seriously/half jokingly offered to help sort out any problem.  Whether this was a genuine offer or not, I’ve been able to link to her web site and find a useful resource for my hols, and if there is a problem I may just be able to get in touch with someone who is there.

The second example happened late last night, and can be a cautionary tale for anyone tempted by an iTunes impulse purchase.  Listening to the radio, a piece of classical music which I remembered well from my time at school came on the radio.  I decided I wanted to listen to rest of the album, so promptly hopped onto iTunes, and bought the first version that came up on my search.  The moral of the story, always preview the music before you buy!

In fact the album I purchased was a digitisation of a vinyl album, and came with all the cracks, pops and hisses that my old records used to have.  There had clearly been a sampling problem too, as the double bass sounds were inaudible, and there were a few skips too.  Caveat Emptor I thought, and put it down to experience and reminded myself not to be so silly in the future.  Still, I sent out a late-night Tweet, and sure enough someone responded telling me how to report the problem to Apple.  This was done this morning, and true to their word, I’ve had a refund of the album cost, and a nice email from them apologising.

Neither of these are dramatic events, just strangers helping each other out, but it does show that Twitter is more than just a micro-blogging service for those that wish to post the smallest details of their lives.  I guess in a couple of years time we’ll look back with cringing embarrassment some of our early Twitter posts, and whatever we thought was important at the time, but isn’t that the same of any media which is published?  I look back at some of my early creative writing, and whilst some of it doesn’t make me howl, some of it really isn’t very good, and that’s from just four years ago!

So if you don’t use Twitter, don’t worry – no one’s going to put a gun to your head and force you to, but please don’t criticize those of us that do, and are finding little examples such as these which make it worthwhile.

Full disclosure

If anyone wants to send me a Palm Pré for evaluation purposes, I promise I will tell everyone it’s been sent to me.  I also promise I won’t go into meltdown if anyone asks me about this – unlike the reviewer below (warning, contains language that may upset my mother).

Unfortunately it will be a while before it’s released in the UK, I’m guessing the new iPhone (allegedly) will be out by then.

On the road

I would be lost without my laptop(s), and I would be a less productive person, both in work and outside.

Take a weekend I’ve got coming up later this month.  I’m heading to Luton to see friends, and stopping overnight.  But early the following week I’m going to Kent to perform my external examining duties.  It didn’t seem to make sense to me to double-back on myself (and an extra 200-odd miles).  So I’ve booked myself into a Travelodge en-route, and turned it into a long weekend away.

I’ll be away for four days though in total.  Without a laptop and Internet this would mean coming back to a load of work, and non-work emails.  But with Macbook (it’s definitely a Macbook weekend, much as I love my eee it’s not a heavy-duty machine), and my 3 dongle (does anyone pay hotel prices for their wi-fi now?), I can be online and surfing for work or leisure (it sure beats the hell out of the dross that’s on tv, or drinking myself into a stupor at the bar.

There’s still a stigma of sorts to web-working in some places – I got my laptop out at a pub when I had an hour to kill a few weeks back and you would have thought I’d whipped out a Star Trek style tricorder, but generally public places in hotels, coffee bars, and ‘trendy’ pubs it seems acceptable.  I frequently take advantage of the slow but rock-stable free wi-fi at McDonalds, and greasy fingers (mine) aside, it can be a good place to work, especially early in the morning (avoid the 3pm – 5pm period though, too many kids.)

But it’s amazing how quickly this has become the norm. My first Apple mac (beloved iBook, I’ve still not had the guts to throw it away even though it’s been defunct now for two years) did not come with wi-fi as standard, and I invested in an Airport card for it, this was for wireless surfing at home, and I wasn’t even aware that there was such a thing as a wireless hot-spot.  The 3-dongle allowing literally anywhere surfing was a purchase last year, and when the 18 month contract is up I’ll be looking for a similar or better deal (there’s some good ones around at the moment).

Of course there’s a down-side, the frustrated wi-fi or 3g signal that drops, the nosy person on the next tablw wondering what exactly I’m typing, and I’ve still not yet got the security issue sorted with regards to laptop theft when you have a call of nature (or need to get another drink).  Welll, there is actually a piece of software for mac portables that does help here, iAlertu, though unfortunately the website seems to be out of action, and I uninstalled the software a while back whilst housekeeping 😦

And why have I penned this tribute to wireless working today?  Well, naturally I’m out and about, currently in a McDonalds on a second coffee and checking emails/moodling inbetween scribbling this down.

Ain’t technology wonderful!