Thursday, December 29, 2005

While I'm on my soapbox..

I notice I'd written about Windows Live a while back, so before I close Blogger and go to get a cup of tea I'll write a quick update.

I applied for the Live mail trial a while back. You have to be a US resident (on your msn profile) to qualify for the trial, so it's a good thing I am! *cough* When you apply you get an email to your hotmail account saying "Thank you for applying for the trial blah blah you'll be switched over soon and won't lose any of your mail". I was switched over about three or four weeks after applying for the trial.

Hotmail needed an update. I had a ridiculous 2MB of space. My phone has more memory than that! I kept my Hotmail account for historical reasons; there are some people who only have my hotmail address and I've never bothered asking them to email me from another address. Also I use MSN Messenger and therefore am tied to my hotmail address (at least by virtue of being constantly reminded it exists every time I sign in) whether I like it or not.

Crucially Live mail gives you 2 gigs of space. This means I can stop purging all those old emails which I really didn't want to delete (I'm a total hoarder when it comes to emails..) It also means I can feel comfortable with people sending me attachments now and not have to worry about whether other peoples' mails are bouncing because someone sent me a hilarious animated gif of someone getting horribly mutilated (yes I am that popular to receive emails from more than one person and also to receive animated gifs in my mails).

The amount of space Live mail gives saved my Hotmail account. I was on the verge of moving people to my gmail account solely because of the space. I don't actually like gmail, it just doesn't look nice to me. Looks wise Live mail doesn't differ too much from Hotmail. It appears a lot less cluttered but I think that's due to less ads or different coloured ads on the side and top of the window than anything else.
There is now a preview pane so that you can view your inbox and the content of a mail at the same time. That's about it...

The one thing I miss from Hotmail is the ability to write plain text emails. I can't find an option for it so I assume they've completely removed it from Live mail.

So basically Live mail is Hotmail with 2 gigs of space. For me at least. There are other features which "power users" might appreciate like keyboard shortcuts, drag and drop of emails, etc but for me the crucial difference is the increase in space, and I'm very happy about that. Thanks Microsoft! :o)

Budapest reunion pics!

Ok I finally put the Budapest trainee reunion pictures online .. emails to the relevant people to follow :o)

Belated Merry Christmas, and a Timely Happy New Year!

Season's Greetings and all that.

I thought I'd catch up on my blog reading, and blogging, over Christmas but it hasn't happened. In 20/20 hindsight it's probably a bit silly to expect to get anything done over the Christmas holidays :o)

Still I'm uploading the Budapest trainee reunion photos this evening and hope to blog again at the weekend (fat chance ;o))


Monday, December 05, 2005

How to make me not look at a url

Post/mail/IM it without explaining what it's about, or with just some comment that only makes sense when you follow the link.

How hard is it to write a sentence or two explaining what the link is about?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Some blogs I like

I do have trouble keeping up with the blogs I'm subscribed to, but when I do get time to catch up, these are some of the blogs I like.

Communication Nation is a blog about soft skills, from presentations to dealing with customers to holding meetings or spending your time more effectively.

Presentation Zen is a blog written by a guy living in Japan which discusses presentation skills from a zen perspective. It's not a blog which is updated daily but every post he makes is interesting and educational.

43 Folders is another mix of posts on issues related to time management skills.

India Uncut is a great blog for Indophiles and anyone who wants to keep up with the latest issues in India. The blogger links to a lot of other Indian blogs and I think it's fair to say he has his finger on the pulse of the Indian blogging scene. Just mark the cricket related posts as read ;o)

Two tangential points on this:

1) India Uncut is yet another blog which shows that bloggers who write about political or social issues are still very reliant on the mainstream media for learning about stories in the first place. This is despite some bloggers' dissing of the MSM and claims that bloggers will take over from the MSM in being the source of news stories in the future.

2) If an "Indophile" is a fan of India, then what do you call someone who is a fan of Indonesia?

Welcome to Room 116 is a blog which covers original ad campaigns around the world. This blog links to a lot of cool and imaginative campaigns that I'd have never heard of otherwise.

Computerworld Security News (apologies but I'm linking directly to the feed since I don't have a proper link to the normal website) is good for keeping up to date with security news in the IT field.

Signal Vs. Noise is a design oriented blog with a focus mostly on web applications and web sites and that whole Web 2.0 thing.

I read a fair few other blogs but the above would be the ones which I find consistently interesting.

How do you keep up with blogs?

I'd be interested to know how many blogs other people read and how they keep up to date with them, especially those blogs which post multiple articles per day. I have a hard time keeping up because some days I just don't have the time to read the blogs I'm subscribed to.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Live Messenger

Catching up on my blog reading and saw Om Malik has a brief comment on Live Messenger plus a screenshot.

This also sounds really cool! I'm not a VOIP user though it would save me a lot of money if I was so it's something I might take up in the near future. (Skype is installed on my home pc but I've never gotten around to testing it).

With all the focus on Google lately it's been easy to forget that Microsoft are still absolutely loaded and have the ability (should they choose) to copy and improve upon existing applications launched by competitors. This Live thing is going to be interesting to see, especially since Microsoft have the infrastructure in place to integrate this stuff with the desktop a lot more easily than Google.

Windows Live

Just saw it posted on rb now and it looks very cool.

When I saw you can import an OPML file (i.e. import the list of feeds you're subscribed to in another RSS reader) I thought "Ah typical Microsoft, you probably can't export your feeds from Windows Live" but you can! That's pretty cool.

I think the Windows Live desktop is a good idea but I don't see a way to categorise feeds so you only view, say, security blogs at any one time. Instead it seems like you are expected to just scroll through all the feeds you've added. That can't be right, can it? I don't see a way to mark individual items on a feed as read and therefore hide them either.

You can move stuff around, but only above or below or beside existing stuff, it's not like a proper "desktop".

I can't think of what information I'd like on an online desktop.. Like I wouldn't care about seeing my buddy list while I'm reading emails.. or would I.. hmm.. it's definitely something I'll give a go anyway.

The thing I love about Windows Live is Windows Live Favourites. It's something I've wanted for a long long time.. an easy way to keep track of my favourites no matter what pc I am at. The site also allows you to export your favourites in a format which can be viewed offline as a HTML file. I love it.

The hardest part of trying out new technologies is that to really get the benefit of them (for example, this portable favourites storage idea) you have to change the way you work or use the computer. I am used to storing my favourites in my browser and I don't know if I would bother with the extra step of having to first go to a specific website, then log in before I could save a url. For that reason I can see it being a while before I being to use Live Favourites as a habit. Does anyone know if, when you import favourites, it merges them with existing favourites?

Overall though it's a cool new idea from Microsoft and I'm looking forward to using it more and seeing what gadgets come out for it. The new Live Mail should be cool too. Way too early to say if this is Microsoft just firing out a few small products to try to keep up with Google or whether they genuinely want to get involved in a big way in this area I think.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Random late night post..

It's been a long time since I last posted and I've been thinking about posting for a while now but have never gotten around to it. What's prompted this spontaneous return to the world of blogging is a late night wait and watch for a Lotus Notes database to replicate for me over my home dsl connection.

Surely they could have some sort of intelligent replication which only updates the _part_ of the file which has changed or which compares the checksums of attached files to see if they need to be uploaded/downloaded again. Guess not..

If I get around to it this weekend I might throw up some new posts, but I've been saying that to myself (and anyone that would listen) for the past few weeks :o)

(PS: Yes I know there is a background replication option, but I'm not smart enough to use it..)

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Some comments about Open Source and blogs I hate..

First of all, blogs like IT Outsourcing Comments are types of blog I hate. Where is the value in just posting up extracts from other pages and links back to those pages?

When people read journo type blogs, or blogs about a specific subject, they expect a certain value in reading the opinion of that person. Some blog which is just a link farm is not that good. In this case it's not so bad because the blogger links to some obscure blogs and mags, but some blogs post up links to CNet and Wired etc. Who doesn't know CNet or Wired? "There's an interesting article on Wired about digital media?? Shit, why didn't I think to look at Wired!"

Anyway on to Open Source stuff..

I read the article on the above blog about "The Advance of Open Source".

I've nothing against open source software but would like to comment on some of the points made in the article.

This whole "advance of open source" idea. It might be ok for cheer leaders to go "Yay! <insert company here> is using Linux!" but what does that mean? I remeber hearing someone on the phone to a client "'s open source software. That means it's free." Someone makes an application that's usable (i.e. it's not total shit) and is free, where's the victory? It's a no-brainer: You have two products of similar quality, one is free, one costs €100 per seat. Which do you go for?
Companies deciding to use free software over expensive software isn't that much of a moral victory.

When companies start releasing their core intellectual property as open source, then I'll believe they are on board with it. But in this day and age, when we see companies worrying about competitors in China reverse-engineering their products, I can't see companies rushing to release their source code to one and all..

The blogger also says about Firefox
Hence, Open Source is no longer just for geeks but it is slowly but steadily becoming a mainstream thing.

I don't know about that. What is open source besides free software? The whole ideology behind open source software is about the benefits of releasing the code.. but consumers don't care about the code. I've downloaded Firefox.. I'm not even sure if the code came with it. I just use it to surf the web. I couldn't care less whether it's open source or closed source, and I think most non-geek Firefox users would say the same.

Open Source is cool, it's a nice idea. But I don't think that people using free software which happens to be open source is much of an advance for the open source movement.

Update on Global Voices

My last entry was about Global Voices. I went back there today and see that the page I said was spammed has since been fixed. And on that page I notice that there already was an Ireland page! It was called Republic of Ireland. However that page is now spammed. Brilliant.

When the page gets fixed I'll probably just add the Planet Redbrick link to it. The Ireland page I created is redundant I suppose. Though who calls Ireland the "Republic of Ireland". This came up on the Redbrick newsgroups recently and I forget the conclusion which was something along the lines of it being technically correct (the best kind of correct) and was therefore perfectly acceptable.

I can't imagine any Irish person saying "I live in the Republic of Ireland" when asked where they live, but then again that doesn't mean it's incorrect, especially when in a listing of countries. Very unintuitive for Irish people who might look for the page about their country though.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Global Voices

Just set up the Ireland page on Global Voices.

Obviously I've just thrown in the Planet Redbrick link. Blatent plug ;o)
Actually I notice that some pages have been spammed to bits. The unfortunate side effect of using a Wiki :o/

I found out about Global Voices from the page about Cambodian blogs. I can't remember where I got the link to that page from.. it's been one of those days.

This particular blog by ThaRum contains an interesting viewpoint on life in Cambodia and especially issues of literacy and the digital divide.

It's a shame that some people can spew so much hyperbole about blogs and how wonderful they are when there are still many many people in the world who cannot read, let alone use a computer.

I see people coming out of a methadone clinic near where I work almost every day. I wonder if they know how to use a computer or have ever used one..

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The backlash against blogging

Even though I blog I tend to be a bit skeptical about the hype around what are effectively just the new "home page" (remember when people had a home page instead of a blog? :o)).

Couple of pages making fun of blogging:
Karl Podesta

Blogs are pretty lame but they satisfy some need I have to dump my thoughts into the the great unknown of the internet.. so I'm gonna keep on blogging :o)

A Case-Study in Best Practice for Operating System Management

Just had a quick read through "A Case-Study in Best Practice for Operating System Management" by Colm MacCárthaigh and Colin Whittaker. I think it's a good introduction to IT operations management to people at lower levels of the IT ladder. It's definitely worth looking at for undergrads and people new to IT administration who want a quick introduction to best practices in the area.

(Disclaimer: I have never been an IT admin, but have audited enough IT departments to know the benefits of best practice)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

And yes...

I realise the irony of only recently making a blog entry about how we will begin to reference each other's posts only for me to be the first one to do it..

I know one airline I'll try to avoid...

Just read Colm's post about Hapag-Lloyd Express.

As someone with a fear of falling (you might call it a fear of heights.. but a fear of falling is more accurate since I'm not afraid of being high up inside a building or on a bridge where there are railings in place to stop me falling off etc.) I will definitely try to avoid this airline.

My scariest experience with an airline was flying into Frankfurt with Lufthansa one time. We almost landed when it hit serious turbulance and the plane dropped quickly. I hate hate hate that feeling.. the tightness in your chest when every instinct in your body is telling you that you are going to die.

I will never fly with an airline like Hapag-Lloyd if they fly in such a scary manner.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Self-referential link ahoy!

Haven't blogged in a long time, but felt the need to since Planet Redbrick has been launched!

When I first heard the name I thought Planet Redbrick would be the cool idea Kevin p had years ago about making a map of the world and highlighting the countries that Redbrick members had logged on from. However Planet Redbrick is a page which could also (maybe more accurately) be called Blogosphere Redbrick. It is a collection of blogs by Redbrick members.

I'm there, and so are many other fine people. This is why I've decided to write this post, because I haven't written in so long that none of my blog entries are on the site ;o)

Actually this Planet Redbrick idea might encourage me to blog. Maybe it will create a blogging arms race with people frantically writing blog entries just to keep a presence on the page? I think in time it will definitely start to get infected with the in-jokes from the Redbrick boards ("Planet Redbrick has an army in the Nebucanezar looking for a second INTRA job now?" "Yes, they held off the Russian army with poor people skills.") If we all descend into writing blog entries discussing each other's blogs then we could become as self-referential, elitist, and isolated from reality as some of the American political bloggers (ooh, controversial!). I hope that won't happen, but hopefully a sort of community spirit will emerge to some small enough extent.

Planet Redbrick

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Blogs in the weekend papers

Just a short post..

The Irish Times comes with a magazine on Saturdays. Every week they have a list of what's hot and what's cold. This past Saturday they had "blogs" in the what's cold column :o)

The Sunday Tribune this past weekend had a few articles about what's happening in the world of Irish blogs and seemed to take blogs seriously.

So divided opinions, both equally valid :o)

Lif Up Yuh Leg An Trample

Posted about Soca and how much I like it on my old blog.
Was googling something and came across this review of a great Soca compilation album: Lif Up Yuh Leg An Trample.

I can't find Soca music in Ireland. Picked this album up in the largest Tower Records store in the world, which is in Shibuya in Tokyo. They have a shelf there for Soca which really surprised and impressed me. Doesn't compare to the 8 shelves of video game and pachinko soundtracks they have though :o)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Why Blog?

I've been wondering a lot recently about why I should or shouldn't blog. Haven't come up with a good reason yet :o)
I just want to get my opinion out there on the internet I guess. But I've always been opinionated and so it's normal for me to feel compelled to speak in any situation.

I was wondering why more people on Redbrick didn't have blogs. Redbrick is a university computing society. It's actually called a "networking society" but that causes a lot of confusion with the term "networking" in the social sense so I don't use it when explaining Redbrick to people who aren't familiar with it. I have started using FeedDemon in the last few months and had begun to wear the blogger blinkers, seeing the world from a blog reader/writer's perspective. As a society with a very computer literate membership I was surprised Redbrick didn't have a lot more blogs. So I posted to their forum asking why more members didn't have blogs. I asked:

What I find funny (funny odd) is that rb is such a techie forum and yet so few people here have blogs. What's the deal with that? Is blogging not really something that appeals to Irish people?

Here are some of the responses I got:

"I think that blogging doesn't generally appeal to *people*, not
specifically Irish people."

"Well, it's always going to be a niche interest IMO, but it's a particularly interesting one. The idea of self-publishing fully realised, through simple tools."

"I dunno, I tried it two summers ago, for 30 days, as an experiment and it got a reasonable amount of readers - for some reason, but tbh it's a bit "Look at me, I'm interesting, read my thoughts, give me attention" which doesn't really suit the Irish psyche, which no matter how attention-seeking, arrogant and self-centred you really are it's always a no-no to outright appear to be so.

Maybe we Irish have the good sense to realise we're really not all that interesting?"

"For me, it's kind of the same reason I've never really bothered maintaining a website - it would be just one more amongst masses, and I don't consider myself that interesting. ;o)"

"The cross-site blogging messing is just mad. It's like peer-to-peer news. People cutting up newspapers, and passing them around to their friends."

"I've never had an urge to keep a diary... let alone publish it on the interweb....

I think the rb boards fill the "mindless prattle" part of blogging so most people here already have an outlet for it...

I wonders if all these bloggers are old usenet veterans who have just migrated to a new medium, or are they prattle-to-the-masses virgins..."


There weren't many posts in favour of blogging. I tend to agree with the above sentiments.. and yet I still feel compelled to have a blog.. So maybe it is more a personality thing than people sitting down and going "What can I contribute to the web? Is a blog the best way to go about this?"

When reading some of the leading blogs there is definitely an echo chamber effect. Read enough blogs and you can begin to think that the world does actually blog. In fact, I'd seriously question the signifigance of some of the figures around the amount of blogs on the web. It's probably got more to do with the state of internet publishing today than with a desire to blog regularly or blog for the betterment of mankind. People find blogging tools an easy way to have a homepage which you can use to share jokes, stories, and pictures with friends. In that sense they're not much different to old school "home pages."

Correct me if I'm wrong..

Supercomputing in Ireland

Not my bag really, but Karl Podesta loves it. He loves it so much that he wants to marry it and have its distributed children. He also loves it so much that he has created a webpage listing current supercomputing projects going on around Ireland.

Check it out, it's an interesting field of computing.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A blog reborn


After giving up on my blog on Redbrick, and despite niggling doubts as to whether I should blog at all, I have decided to give blogger a go. Hopefully this will be more reliable than my previous blog and I will keep it updated reasonably often. Good intentions and all that.. ;o)