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July, 2008

Silver surfers, unite!

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Older people are embracing the internet like never before.No, I’m not commenting about that awful Fantastic Four film from a couple of years back. Instead, a couple of stories have caught my attention today, and they both seem to point to a greater usage of the internet by older folks.

Specifically, much older folks.

First, from the BBC, is a story about a group of Cistercian Monks who have had broadband installed on their remote island. They live on an island three miles off the coast of Tenby, Pembrokeshire, and their reliance on dial-up internet was hampering the Monk’s work: selling home-made perfume and sweets over the internet.

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Hating BitTorrent (or How To Spoil Three Years of Anticipation)

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Like Napster and every other file sharing service since, BitTorrent has altered (some would say scarred) the digital landscape immensely. I’m not going to go into the legalities here – we all know people who use it, a noble few for genuine legal file sharing, vastly more for getting the latest Coldplay album without having to shell out for it (I’ve heard it, I can sympathise).

It’s part cause and part by-product of the fact that the Internet has hugely magnified the hype and speculation around new albums, movies and games, to the extent where we often know far more than we need to about something before we experience it.

Simon over at fanboy site Den Of Geek makes the point well here, with even seemingly innocent Facebook walls proving a minefield before a much anticipated film release. I can understand this to a certain extent – I read previews and speculate about films more than is really healthy. But I stop there.

The people I simply won’t ever understand are those seemingly intent on deliberately ruining their own enjoyment of the thing they’re so desperate to get hold of. (more…)

Mojave, same problems

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

This week in the office we’ve been talking a lot about Microsoft’s Mojave Experiment. In case you missed it, this is Redmond’s new attempt to dispel negative perceptions of Vista. The central claim is that “people would like Vista if they could only see it for themselves.”

And, in fairness, the experiment does show that people do like Vista, so long as they can only see it. There’s no indication of how they feel once they actually start using it, which is probably for the best. (more…)

Posted in: Random

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Life at Cuil: strawberries, muffins and porn

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

A new search engine launched this week, prompting a surprisingly huge response online. To be honest, I was just as guilty of getting excited as anyone else.

Whether it was the David-versus-Goliath appeal of a tiny startup going up against a company that can boast to be both a household name and a verb, or whether it was the pure controversy – several Cuil engineers have come directly from Google, after all – I don’t know. But one thing looks certain; we want the search monopoly to be toppled.

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Posted in: Rant

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First look: HP’s Pavilion HDX9320EA: The Dragon

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

HP has refreshed the specifications of its giant 20.1in desktop-replacement laptop, suitably codenamed The Dragon. We’ve got the top-of-the-range model, the HDX9320EA, squatting menacingly down in PC Pro’s labs.

Even before you find yourself seduced by the Dragon’s formidable specifications (more of which later), it’s difficult not to be struck by the sheer size of the thing. We’ve seen some big laptops, but HP’s HDX9320EA takes the dragon-sized doggy biscuit. Acer’s Aspire 8920G Gemstone Blue was a big blighter, with its 18.4in display and suitably huge footprint, but compared to HP’s beast it begins to look fairly modest. Even Dell’s chunky gaming behemoth, the XPS M1730, starts to look almost, well, portable. And as for the sub-1kg Toshiba R500 in the picture below, it’s positively dwarfed.

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I like Miso Soup

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

No, I haven’t been taken over by a random word generator : I genuinely like the stuff. Not just because it perfectly complements some Sashimi or a Bento Box; but because it helps me think about air-conditioning and heat. Miso soup is a mixture of stock – or dashi – with paste – or Miso. It’s supposed to arrive hot, and if you leave it in a coolish room you can see the little particles of paste circulating in an almost textbook perfect case study of convection: something very few people actually believe is really going on around us, despite being taught about it in school (by a mad Welshman with crinkly wavy hair, a la Dilbert, in my case, but I digress)…

When the weather is hot, and I’m standing in people’s server rooms and they are going nuts with fear and loathing about their precious servers going into meltdown, I like to ask them about Miso soup: and if they get all confused (and then angry and then don’t pay my bill), I ask them how much they think the air inside the typical hot-air balloon actually weighs.

Very few get it right: the answer is, about five tons. Once you get that idea into your head, getting emergency cooling for servers sorted out starts to make a good deal more sense – and those elephant’s-trunk so-called aircon units which harassed managers tend to put in as a reflex action during these periods, start to look more like a way to throw kilowatts into the air for very little benefit, than like a smart way to stop your servers going into meltdown.

Got any good “boy stood on the burning deck” stories from extreme heat or wild weather?

What do you want from Windows 7?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Windows 7Thanks to Microsoft’s vow of semi-silence, we know very little about what to expect from Windows 7. We know it’s coming in 2009/2010, we know about the whizzy touch interface, we know there’s no new kernel, and that – oficially at least – is about all we do know.

So, given we have something of a blank canvas to work with right now, what would you like to see in Windows 7?

What would you change about the interface? How would you improve Windows’ security? Is it time to wave goodbye to 32-bit versions of the OS? Should driver and app signing be mandatory?

Let us know your thoughts and suggestions using the Comments facility below, and you never know, Microsoft might even be listening.

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Posted in: Software

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BA.com – some advice

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I’m not normally a fan of the ranting I-can’t-believe-they-did-this-to-me school of blogging but I promise that there is a computer-related point to the following edited highlights of a recent correspondence with British Airways customer service department.

British Airways site 

More to the point I can’t believe they did this to me! (more…)

Dell’s Studio Hybrid: Destined for success?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Dell’s first entry into the burgeoning small form-factor market, the Studio Hybrid, is finally here and on sale. But, it’s made me wonder, what’s the fascination with tiny desktop PCs? Why so small? Why so unupgradeable? Why not just buy a laptop and be done with it? Hang on, what’s the bleeding point of them at all?

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Comedian solves BT’s broadband problems

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Dave GormanDave Gorman is a very funny man. However, he’s lost his sense of humour over his faltering BT broadband connection, which disappeared down a black hole three days ago.

“I’m not a violent man but right now I would cheerfully hurt someone from BT,” Gorman writes on his blog. “In fact my sense of proportion has diminished to the point where I can’t work out if it would be in particularly bad taste to suggest that running Kris Marshall over again would be, well, satisfying. Probably.
Still, if he will advertise BT’s services…”

However, what piqued my interest was his superb suggestion of ISPs providing mobile broadband dongles to people whose landlines have given up the ghost: a courtesy connection in the same way garages provide a courtesy car when your runaround is being repaired.

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